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Vellum: The Book of All Hours Paperback – Unabridged, 7 Jul 2006
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'Duncan has gone all out to break the rules in a debut that is... brave, and occasionally brilliant.' -- The Guardian
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 skinsSee all Product description
Top customer reviews
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. If you're not, just relax and take everything in. Don't try to fit it into a framework. If you just take in the information and let the book do it's thing, it starts to make sense on it's own after a little while.
Also - it's a very good book. I've missed my stop on the tube several times because of it. Even if you decide it makes no sense at all, the individual strands are well enough written to keep you reading.
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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Most recent customer reviews
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