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Vellum: The Book of All Hours: 1 [Unabridged] [Hardcover]

Hal Duncan
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)

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Book Description

5 Aug 2005 Book of All Hours 1
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.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 600 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan; 1 edition (5 Aug 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1405052082
  • ISBN-13: 978-1405052085
  • Product Dimensions: 3.8 x 0.4 x 0.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,140,377 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


A Confident debut...a compelling alternative look at the world and its history -- Dreamwatch

a mind-blowing read that's genuinely like nothing you've ever read before..expanded fantasy's limits like nothing published in years. -- SFX

prepare to be amazed..this is a truly monumental work which should set the standard for 21st century science fiction -- The Good Book Guide

Book Description

It's 2017 and the End Days are coming, beings that were once human gathering to fight in one last great war for control of the Vellum - the vast realm of eternity on which our world is just a scratch. But to a draft-dodging Irish angel and a trailer-trash tomboy called Phreedom, it's about to become brutally clear that there's no great divine or diabolic plan at play here, just a vicious battle between the hawks of Heaven and Hell, with humanity stuck in the middle, and where the easy rhetoric of Good and Evil, Order versus Chaos just doesn't apply. Here there are no heroes, no darlings of destiny struggling to save the day, and there are no villains, no dark lords of evil out to destroy the world. Or at least if there are, it's not quite clear which is which. Here, the most ancient gods and the most modern humans are equally fate's fools, victims of their own hubris, struggling to save their own skins, their own souls, but sometimes... just sometimes... sacrificing everything in the name of humanity.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The cyberpunk 'His Dark Materials' 10 Mar 2006
By Alex
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
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If... 29 Jan 2010
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars I don't know...
This is an exhausting, interesting, maddening book. Parts of it feel as though they're brilliant, although I can't be sure. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Simon Yates
4.0 out of 5 stars Hard to get into, but magnificent
A slow read, but a really interesting one.
It takes some (dozens of) pages to get used to Hal Duncan's hysteric jumping from a topic to another, switching points of view and... Read more
Published on 7 Sep 2010 by M. Piva
1.0 out of 5 stars Lit matches
I tried but failed to get interested in this book. It is a triple time-scale fantasy with lots of arcane mythology (which I don't think is authentic, but who knows?) mixed in. Read more
Published on 15 Sep 2009 by Eileen Shaw
1.0 out of 5 stars Started of well
Started off well and I liked the idea of the story but for me it went downhill pretty quickly as it became confusing and difficult to read through early on. Read more
Published on 15 May 2009 by DTopp
5.0 out of 5 stars I like this book.
I've read some bad reviews of this book and most of them cite boring/undeveloped characters and gimmicky writing. That's what appealed to me most about Vellum! Read more
Published on 10 April 2009 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars a "must read" that must be read.
changing the way you view modern fantasy - hal duncan's style and story lines captivate you from the first chapter through to the finale. a "must read" that must be read. Read more
Published on 8 April 2009 by Tasha
5.0 out of 5 stars Mind-boggling!
I loved this book, though it was a far from easy read. Constant changes of viewpoint (even within a single character) and time shifts, often several on the same page, made this a... Read more
Published on 30 Jan 2009 by Penny Waugh
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting premise but...
As this book had been sitting on my shelf for a while, and having not read the reviews, I thought I'd choose it as my next read. Read more
Published on 3 Dec 2008 by C. Carter
2.0 out of 5 stars A great effort - but so hard
On one hand this book is rich with cultural references, old legends and a grand scale. On the other hand, it moves back and forth through time and rambles from character to... Read more
Published on 22 Sep 2008 by J. Cronin
5.0 out of 5 stars Breathtaking.
I'm reading the reviews, and can't believe that any would deem this work "lazy". In view of the incredibly disparate, but connected, storylines I consider that some considerable... Read more
Published on 18 May 2008 by C. S. Markwick
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