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Vellum: The Book of All Hours Paperback – Unabridged, 7 Jul 2006

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Product details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Pan; Unabridged edition (7 July 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330438360
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330438360
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 3 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 112,288 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Duncan has gone all out to break the rules in a debut that is... brave, and occasionally brilliant.' -- The Guardian

Book Description

A magnificent, fantastical literary epic of Heaven and Hell in direct conflict, with sleeper agents who will murder, rape and torture at their master’s command, and where the heroes will be lucky to save their own skins --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Bookseller on 29 Jan. 2010
Format: Paperback
Okay, here are my two beans.

IF: you are interested in Greek and Sumerian mythology, HP Lovecraft and apocalyptic urban fantasy, this is the book for you.

BUT: be warned - the narrative is challenging. It chops between many different versions of the characters, in other times and alternate histories. It doesn't always hold your hand and explain the terminology it's using, and it's book one of a two book series, so don't expect it to rush to resolve all the threads just yet.

The experience of reading this book was just like the experience of being involved in Classical Studies and Ancient and Near Eastern Studies (in which I am fortunate enough to have a some qualifications): you take a couple of myths (often slightly contradictory), some historical sources, a few different translations of some ancient poem, and use them to get a holistic understanding. That's the way The Vellum works - you go from Thomas Messenger, a 'graved' demon fleeing a war between heaven and hell; to Tommy Messenger, a young soldier in the first world war; to Puck, a fairy from a fantasy world, trapped in the Vellum after being mutilated and beaten to death by Anti-Gnomish bigots. It follows the characters very faithfully, but you do have to remember that there are several versions of each character and not try to force everything into a linear format. With that said - the plot progresses. At first I had my doubts, but the book doesn't just look at it's navel. It does move things along, and the characters mature a good deal from their experiences.

In fact the best piece of advice I can offer is - relax. It isn't going to read like a book you're used to. If you're experienced in intertextual analysis, then it'll be a very familiar experience.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Alex on 10 Mar. 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book is not an easy read. While not quite as impenetrable as "Finnegan's Wake", Hal Duncan's style is certainly unique; seamlessly blending dialogue and narrative. But what's even more unusual is his radically new and disjointed approach to story-telling, which forgoes, for the main, the notion of 'characters' and instead introduces us to archetypes; identities shared across time and space. A concept, a person, an entire reality may last for a chapter - or even just a page - before being disposed of in an almost casual fashion, only to be resurrected or returned to later on. There is no real central plot, rather, the story progresses from the viewpoints of many antagonists and protagonists: biker chick-turned-angel Phreedom Messenger; shell-shocked World War One veteran Seamus Finnegan; sometimes-psychotic/sometimes-psychic anarchist Jack; Thomas Carter, who is attempting to reach the limits of the infinite Vellum; and Metatron, an angel using nanotechnology to recruit soldiers for the coming war between Heaven and Hell.
Hal Duncan's vision of the Vellum, which encompasses many different universes (including our own), allows him to play with a whole host of otherwordly ideas and dreamlike landscapes. If you can imagine a more adult, more complex 'His Dark Materials' with influences ranging from cyberpunk to Sumerian mythology, then you're on the right track.
Perhaps inevitably, Hal Duncan's multiple plot strands and realities make for a whole lot of unanswered questions - which the forthcoming sequel, 'Ink', will hopefully address. As a stand-alone book, however, 'Vellum' is a thought-provoking and richly detailed read - although to digest it fully takes a great deal of concentration and an open mind.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Claymore on 4 Sept. 2006
Format: Paperback
Having just completed reading this book (it was hard work, have no doubt about that !), and read the reviews below, I am undecided as to which camp I fall into. On the one hand, this book came across as a self-indulgent, chaotic, stream-of-conscience, prosaic ramble, with little regard for storyline, continuity, character development or reader empathy. On the other, the book kept me intrigued with a fabulous basic premise, rich language and cultural references, loads of hidden connections, metaphors and parodies, historic cameos and the constant promise that, at some point, all these chaotic elements would be drawn together and explained. In the end (of this book anyway) this did NOT happen and plenty was left unexplained. Much reader interpretation, imagination and presumption must be applied to carry out the task of tying these threads together and working out who ended up doing what to/with who and why. This could be considered either artistic genius on the author's part, appealing to an intellectual elite, or sheer laziness. Again, I can't quite decide which (though I hope it's the former and maybe I'm just a little too dense to fully realise).

A minor grumble - The relationship storylines that run throughout the novel (one involving Thomas/Puck and the various Jacks, and the other between Phreedom and Seamus) seem unnecessary. They are never really relevant to any of the other events (not alone in this aspect I suppose). A couple of times, and more so near the end of this volume, the Thomas/Jack relationship appeared about to be used as an element in a morality and persecution exercise (as judged by the contemporary societies described), but the author then always leaves this unfinished.
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