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Vellum: The Book of All Hours (The Book of All Hours #1)

3.30  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,641 Ratings  ·  251 Reviews
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, ...more
ebook, 600 pages
Published August 1st 2011 by Pan Publishing (first published 2005)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Mara
Apr 28, 2008 Mara rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book was actually painful to read. I'm not entirely sure why I didn't just put it down. It was like reading modern art or listening to modern music, which, if you're into it, is fine, but if you're not, you just see something meaningless or hear disharmonies, that's only art or music because someone said so. Reading this, I felt like Duncan wrote bits of assorted stories on cards and then shuffled them together and called it a book. Some of the bits are chronological, some of them even make ...more
Graham
Feb 19, 2009 Graham rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
I gave VELLUM a good go but in the end I realised it wasn't my cup of tea so I had to give it up after 100 pages. I appreciate the author's intent and his unconventional approach and his breadth of intellectual understanding is frequently astounding. But this is a novel lacking in the basic principles of a story: narrative, characterisation, dialogue, action. A bunch of expletive-driven characters exist in a lawless world, and both good and evil are as uninteresting as each other. The narrative ...more
Christine (AR)
Apr 21, 2008 Christine (AR) rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: language geeks
Shelves: sff
The war in heaven and on earth (and on multiple variations of earth) between the old-school archangels, the rebel demons and the conscientious objectors.

This is an amazing book. It's almost impossible to describe, but the closest I can come is that it's like a mixture of Gibson and King's The Stand and the movie Dogma (if it took itself seriously) with elements of Godot thrown in when the characters from the prologue keep showing up throughout the book on an endless journey through a deserted et
...more
NYLSpublishing
Aug 26, 2008 NYLSpublishing rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to NYLSpublishing by: NYLS Book Review
I can recall my physics professor once saying to me, “The beauty, Joel, is in the complexity. We [scientists] must patiently peel away each mysterious layer to reveal a beauty hidden within.” A quixotic statement, I thought, to which I immediately responded with raffish undergraduate repartee that I didn’t care for hidden things since their existence was, to me, evidence of a disingenuous mind. He didn’t respond to that – just simply smiled; a pregnant smile that, years later when I think of the ...more
Amanda
One of my all-time favorite books ever which, as I've noticed is becoming somewhat of a trend when i adore a book, has a low rating on here. I have no idea why my tastes are dissimilar to the majority of readers out there. But from the dozens of crappy cookie-cutter books I see on here that have near perfect ratings,(for reasons that are simply beyond me), I am eternally grateful that they are. I liked the sequel too, but this was leagues better
Al'xae
May 19, 2008 Al'xae rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: pretentious types who find "meaning" in crap
What a frustrating book! The words are so beautiful, the sentences are all finely crafted work... but when it's all thrown together, it is a big jumble of nothing in particular. It's the beginning of eight million (give or take) story lines and none of them seem to go anywhere. I tried to stay with it, but when there's nothing to grasp onto pretty sentences and engaging imagery are not enough to carry an entire novel.
rameau
Jun 26, 2012 rameau marked it as did-not-finish  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to rameau by: Tähtivaeltaja palkinto, Helsinging Scifi Seura
I should know better than to trust awards by now. Judges and critics seem to love all things pretentious. Why exactly did I think this would be different?

It might have been the idea. That there is a book of universe where all hours--all that was, all that is, all that could be--are written down. That you can change the world by scratching the vellum, spilling the ink, jumping from one page to another. That there is madness in the chaos and that madness has a seed of truth and reason in it if we
...more
Ell Eastwood
This was me the entire time I was reading this:



I mean seriously, ask me anything about this book and I'll be like "I don't know".

Who was the main character? I don't know. What was the plot? I don't know. How did it end? I don't know. What is the Book of all hours? I don't know. Why did the author switch between three different fonts? I DON'T KNOW.

Okay, it's my fault, torturing myself, because I could tell almost from the start I wouldn't like the book, but I kept reading because I do not leave b
...more
Carol.
Mar 27, 2015 Carol. rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: yawn
Very difficult read. Multiply split perspectives, and something that can only loosely be called a plot following multiple timelines. Stuck through it in part because the author's ability with words and frankly, nothing else to read. I agree with one of the other reviewers who thought the author might have shuffled notecards with the plot around and put it together.
Althea Ann
Might as well talk about 'Ink' and 'Vellum' together, since they're really one work.

Conveniently, Duncan describes his work himself, within the text of the book:
"...the Book has as many histories as the world itself, and it contains them all in its Moebius loop of time and space, of contradicting stories somehow fused as one confused and rambling tale, a sort of truth but full of inconsistencies and digressions, spurious interpolations and interpretations, fiction told as fact, fact told as fic
...more
Dan S
Aug 10, 2011 Dan S rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Pretty much the definitive 'Marmite' book, but if you want to your ideas of narrative stucture challenged, then this is the book for you.

Flexible chronological structure is cool nowadays, but Duncan flips between timelines and realities without even changing paragraphs, weaving together multiple narratives to tell ancient myths to a new audience while also telling his own, thrilling story that jumps from quiet love story to thrilling techno action adventure, often on the same page.

The narrative
...more
Elizabeth
A psychedelic, queer, James Joycean ride. Extremely rewarding for the very patient. Probably very frustrating for everyone else. I loved it. Hal Duncan has the genius touch of a mad wordsmith. Layer upon layer he takes the reader deeper and deeper through the looking glass of his gorgeous, intricate vision of the mythic threads underlying the histories of men and angels. The book trades heavily in the mythos of ancient Sumer and the crypto-Christian "Fallen Angels"ideas. Beautiful boys, angels, ...more
Lightreads
Jan 08, 2009 Lightreads rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: right-brained people with a twisty narrative kink
. . . I'm not actually sure what just happened, but I did like it. Okay. I do know it was about the apocalypse, and a war among angels, and nanotechnology. And about reality unpeeling from it's tightly-stacked layers. And the Prometheus myth – a lot of myths, actually, interspersed in the story as they mutually rewrite each other. But it was nonlinear and dense with inductive symbol narrative, and the universe skipped and reset enough times that . . . huh.

Okay. That was very cool.
John McDonald
Jan 28, 2008 John McDonald rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to John by: Creighton
As sprawling, ambitious novel that pushes all sorts of literary and genre boundaries, I wanted so much to love this Vellum. Unfortunately, at several points in novel, Duncan's imagination exceeds his skills as a writer. And, as the over-long descriptions, dropped plot threads, and inconsequential characters piled on each other, I found myself skimming the text and wishing someone at Ballatine had taken a firmer editorial hand with a first time novelist who clearly shows promise.
Arun Divakar
From the very first tentative brushes we have with a story, we are treated to the principle of duality in the form of good v/s evil. This permeated every single story in my childhood where after a series of struggles, the force of good seemed to prevail. This plot line even extended beyond the realm of humans into the denizens of the great beyond. The two forms forever locked in never ending combat were angels and demons and as organized religion would have us believe, the angels and their lord ...more
Janne Paananen
Nov 03, 2013 Janne Paananen rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Hal Duncanin esikoisteos ei jätä taatusti kylmäksi. Mutta sitä lukiessa ensi-ihastus muuttuu epävarmuudeksi, sitten sekavuudeksi ja lopulta ymmärtämättömyydeksi. Viimein alkaa epäillä omia älynlahjoja ja joutuu toteamaan, että tämän kirjan punainen lanka on hukassa... enkä ole ihan varma, että oliko se edes punainen ja taisi niitä lankoja olla aika montakin... oliko siinä edes lankaa?!?

Kirja liikkuu ajassa ja paikassa edestakaisin poukkoillen, mikään ei ole pysyvää. Lähes kaikki maailmat tuntuva
...more
Eija
Vellum on juuri sellainen kuin aavistelin ja pelkäsin, mutta pitihän siihen silti tutustua. Olin aiemmin lukenut muutaman Hal Duncanin novellin Tähtivaeltajasta ja ne olivat suhteellisen vaikeita ja en päässyt niissä samalle aaltopituudelle kirjailijan kanssa. Niin ei käynyt myöskään Vellumin kohdalla. Alku tuntui lupaavalta, mutta sitten alkoi mennä yli hilseen. Lukeminen sujui kyllä ongelmitta ja tavallaan ymmärrys oli mukana lukiessa, mutta yrittäessä hahmottaa kokonaisuutta ja tarinan tarkoi ...more
Kat
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! The writing is solid and sensitive. Yes, the story progresses in an overlaid, stop-start narrative but that's all in keeping with the content of the story and as a technique is used with aplomb. It's a bit unorthadox but not gratuitously wacky.

I'm usually put off sci-fi and fantasy books where the authors wax lyrical about their made up
...more
Roxane
Feb 25, 2009 Roxane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, new-weird, angel
There were so many concepts and ideas going on in this novel that I don't think I'll be able to sum them up here. In fact, I'm not even going to try. I can't believe this is a first novel; the writing is brilliant and mature and the charaterization is a real delight.

Hal Duncan's novel reads like his entity-like world, the Vellum. The Vellum is everywhere, everywhen and everywhich; it encompasses all of the possible worlds regardless of time and space. The novel is built like the Vellum, and Dunc
...more
Dani
Sep 09, 2013 Dani rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is incredibly ambitious and asks a lot from its reader. Seriously, if I were to reread it, I would take notes and I often needed to stop reading it to look up trivia about WWI, or computer programming, or Ancient Sumeria, or word etymology. I still can't quite believe that there isn't a table of contents at the beginning considering there are chapter and section headings and the non-linear, recursive style of the book constantly compels the reader to refer back to earlier passages.

It's
...more
Alex
Jul 20, 2013 Alex rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If I had to pick one word for this book a friend lent to me, I would pick woven. There are multiple threads of narrative that echo and enhance each other throughout each of the two pieces that make up this book, and they fit together surprisingly and impressively well. I enjoyed how much the author drew from different historical eras and mythology (especially in the first half) and I also greatly appreciate that the book was written by a gay author and features gay characters without being *abou ...more
Tani
The premise of this book shapes it tremendously, so let me start by laying that out. Basically, as far as I can tell, there are certain people who can become more than people. These are called unkin. They have an ability to step outside the bounds of reality and time, to see things and remember things that normal people can't. Throughout history, they've been kings, emperors, gods. They've been good, bad, and everything in between.

However, eventually some of them get tired of the way things are
...more
Belle Wood
Mar 04, 2016 Belle Wood rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There aren't stars enough to rate this book.
It's as if someone wrote a book just for me.
Sumerian mythology. Prometheus Bound. Socialist-ish thinking. Iggy Pop. The song Woodstock, by Mathew's Southern Comfort (or Crosby, Stills and Nash, take your pick). Angels. The spaces between.

You see, when *I* write those things, they are an incoherent mish-mash of words, many of which don't belong in the same space.
But when Hal Duncan writes them the pieces fall together and a world is built, one that, in
...more
Dave
Oct 23, 2009 Dave rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
How often do you encounter a book you can both love and hate. This is massively ambitious book, portraying a war in heaven across an almost infinite variety of incarnations of the universe. Across this are a seemingly endless array of characters, many of whm have different incarnations in the varying versions of history. This means of course that the book is by the very nature of what it is trying to portray massively complex.
The incarnations if history, are also frequently retellings of myths,
...more
Dana
Jun 22, 2010 Dana rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Suicidals
I really wanted to read this book, even like it. It just seemed like the type of book that I would love. To be honest, I DID love the first few pages but all the people seemed to have more or less the same name, they changed names, Duncan switched from past to future to past to present to future and everything just didn't fit in. Some of the parts- especiallly the very beginning- were really interesting, and if Duncan went on with that instead of switching here and there it would've been a reall ...more
Rich Stoehr
Of all the books I've read this year, it took me the longest (nearly a month) to get through Vellum. While it felt like wading through a swamp at times, it was almost - just barely - worth the effort.

Hal Duncan pens an ambitious tale here, a war between angels and demons where it's not always who is on which side, spanning generations and different worlds and even different genres of fiction, incorporating elements of fantasy and science fiction and good old-fashioned thriller. His characters, f
...more
Chris Matney
Jul 01, 2012 Chris Matney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Vellum by Hal Duncan is the first of two books that make up The Book of All Hours. The book was an impulse buy at the bookstore, I must admit. It sounded like a post-apocolyptic, cyberpunk morality tale – good vs. evil, angels vs. demons, etc. – with everything building up to a huge final nano-tech battle called Evenfall. What really struck me about the book once I cracked the cover, however, is the writing. Mr. Duncan writes in a series of vivid images strung together sometimes by the thinnest ...more
Matt De
Jun 24, 2013 Matt De rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I purchased this with Ink, and attempted to read both back to back. I like complicated books. I like non linear narratives. I regularly indulge myself in difficult reads because they often have something interesting to say, and you kind of have to earn it, which makes it at least seem a little special. I slogged my way though Vellum, and punched out of Ink as it was simply more of the same.

Everything is an archetype, including the 'good' vs. 'evil' plot line. It's not really good vs. evil, but
...more
Eric
Jul 13, 2007 Eric rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is more of a work of art than a novel. By that I mean it's more like an abstract painting than one that's supposed to look like something. It tells snippets of interweaving stories like brushstrokes, never for quite long enough to create a real picture unless you close your eyes and unfocus a bit. In some ways that's neat and in others it's frustrating. Mostly it's frustrating.

I saw this listed time and again as the sci-fi/fantasy favorite book of the year by numerous critics but I just co
...more
Magdalena Hai
Aug 09, 2014 Magdalena Hai rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spefi, sf-f
Olin kahden vaiheilla, annanko tälle neljä vai viisi tähteä. Nautin kirjan lukemisesta tavattomasti, jopa siinä määrin, että kyttäsin ja odotin hetkiä, jolloin ehtisin sitä lukemaan. Juuri minun tyyppisenihän opus tämä oli: Kerroksittain mytologiaa sotkettuna pitkin maailmanhistoriaa, raivokasta, kunnianhimoista kerrontaa jne. Loppua kohti homma tuntui lähtevän vähän käsistä ja, kuten usein tämän tyyppisissä valtavissa tarinoissa, loppu ei tullut räjähtäen vaan pihahtaen. Vaikuttaisi olevan osak ...more
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Hal Duncan is the author of Vellum, which was a finalist for both the William H. Crawford Award and the Locus Award for Best First Novel. He is a member of the Glasgow SF Writers’ Circle. He lives in the West End of Glasgow.
More about Hal Duncan...

Other Books in the Series

The Book of All Hours (2 books)
  • Ink (The Book of All Hours, #2)

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“But the bigots always see those whom they hate as morally corrupt, as if they confuse their own aesthetics of disgust and fear with actual ethical critique, rationalizing their emotional response, and enforcing their moral certainties with passion, establishing them-selves, subtly or brutally, as arbiters of reason.” 7 likes
“In that time while he was still aware, which was the worse, I wonder: the agony of his physical torture or the horror of their utter hatred, of their moral certainty that he was so beyond the bounds of what they could accept that he deserved not just a death but one of such brutality, such inhumanity, as would make the seraphs who burned Sodom bow their heads in cold respect? What is it like, I wonder, to learn the full capacity of hatred in a lesson hammered home with bone broken on wood and skin ripped on barbed wire?” 4 likes
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