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Vellum: The Book of All Hours by Hal Duncan

Vellum: The Book of All Hours

by Hal Duncan

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Book of All Hours (1)

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Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
i wanted to love this book, i did, but in the end i just couldn't. the immortal stuff just didn't work, though it had the placement advantage of the non-linear timelines. the endless war stories weren't my cup of tea - it's a relentlessly male kind of a book. and the ventures into mythology seemed a bit forced, sadly. the Supernatural series made a more coherent narrative out of Metatron and the angels' war in heaven a few years later, and the Inanna assault on the underworld never really gels, largely because both his mythic and his character stand-in for Inanna are written as too weak and passive to execute a plan. planning in fact may be the problem overall; could his association with a writer's group described as an "anarchist collective" suggest a reason? "operation: focus narrative", reads the author's internal note on the text at p. 314, but he never quite does, and as a result i had terrible trouble staying awake in the middle of the book; i kept nodding off, from one line to the next, and finally realized i was busy in my sleep rewriting lines and finishing paragraphs to my own satisfaction, and no reader ever reads a book in order to write one. so now i have to decide whether to read Ink, the second book, which i have on hand, because i was expecting to want to. sigh. ( )
  macha | May 21, 2017 |
profanity, obscenity, blasphemy, all these were what this book centered around. Humans become angels, the top angel became god, was overthrown. Angels, demons, whatever, are unkin. And a war wages between them all. The Vellum is under all, the true reality" that can be rewritten.

This book was very non-linear, almost like the author was on an acid trip or smoking pot when he wrote this. Duncan gloried in profanity and homosexuality, and a refusal to "choose" sides in a divine war. And it was just so full of emptiness, hopelessness and despair. Who would want that kind of world view? Ugh." ( )
  BookstoogeLT | Dec 10, 2016 |
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 fiction..."

At least, that's the goal.

It starts off promisingly: a student seeks to steal a secret vellum manuscript - the Book of All Hours - a book which determines and reflects reality, which contains all possible realities... a book written in the language of angels, upon the skin of angels, which contains the entirety of the time-space continuum. This is connected to a War in Heaven, agents of the angels that walk upon the earth, and a lot of Sumerian mythology. It began by reminding me of Storm Constantine's Grigori books, and Catherynne Valente's Palimpsest. Neither of those is a bad thing.

However, there's a problem with writing a book about a book that is supposed to contain all things, when you intend the format of your book to reflect that of your fictional book. How do you edit it? What should go in, and what shouldn't? I would have had trouble editing this book, I have to admit. And, in the end, I don't think it worked.

It's obvious that Duncan wrote several reasonably coherent narratives, then chopped them up at mostly-random, and mixed them together. He also wrote a lot of random Other Stuff (thoughts in his head that day?) and stuck those in too. (It reminded me of doing college creative writing assignments, when I sometimes pieced disparate pieces of my writing together in order to make up a page count by a deadline.)

Yes, the reader can piece the narratives together as s/he goes along, but do the "inconsistencies and digressions, spurious interpolations and interpretations" serve a purpose? I kept hoping that they would. I have to admit that my interest was waning by the end of the first book, but I read the whole second book with the hope that it would all get pulled together. I don't feel that that happened.

Duncan is obviously a smart guy. He's very obviously well and widely educated. There are a lot of interesting ideas in these books, and many of the small vignettes are expertly and beautifully written. He has a nice command of the English language. However, I couldn't help feeling that he might be more suited to writing essays than novels. I bet he's good at academic papers, too.

About halfway through the second book, I was thinking about why I really wasn't enjoying it, and I realized that all of the characters, no matter which reality they're currently in, whether they speak in a broadly-written accent, are young or old, or even (in one case) female, seem like they're actually the same person: Hal Duncan(?)
I kid you not, after I realized that, on the very next page, I came across this quote: "there's a deeper connection between them - Jack, Puck, Anna, Joey, Don and himself...Finnan too, wherever he is. The seven of them, seven souls, but maybe really only one...identity."

Yep. They're all the same person. And they're too busy being archetypes, metaphors or mouthpieces most of the time, to be convincing characters.

Duncan says, "Let us consider reality itself as a palimpsest." OK, consider that considered. I even really like the idea. I like a LOT of the ideas in this book. But I feel that those idea would have come through better through the use of a more consistent format - not even necessarily a traditional format, but just a more consistent one. For example, part 3 (the first half of 'Ink') is largely taken up by the characters putting on a performance of a version of 'The Bacchae.' However, Greek drama plays little part in any of the other sections of the book. It feels out-of-place. As do many of the other "spurious interpolations" within the text.

I feel like Duncan said, "well, it's inconsistent because I want it to be inconsistent." But I still prefer consistency. And characters with individual identities.

I often really like things that others describe, negatively, as "pretentious." But this is one of those rare occasions where I am feeling moved to use "pretentious" in a negative sense. This book is pretentious. ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
Interesting concept and some great characters. Started well, last 1/3 of the book really got bogged down in the parallel story lines... ( )
  viking2917 | Sep 1, 2013 |
Some interesting ideas but way too long and seemed to go round and round without any clear storyline or plot. I ended up skipping a lot of the last third. Unlikely to bother with the second book. ( )
  SChant | Apr 26, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hal Duncanprimary authorall editionscalculated
Saikkonen, NinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345487311, Paperback)

An extraordinary, incendiary debut from a rare new talent, Vellum showcases a complex and sophisticated level of writing coupled with a fecund imagination that defies description.


It’s 2017 and angels and demons walk the earth. Once they were human; now they are unkin, transformed by the ancient machine-code language of reality itself. They seek The Book of All Hours, the mythical tome within which the blueprint for all reality is transcribed, which has been lost somewhere in the Vellum–the vast realm of eternity upon which our world is a mere scratch.

The Vellum, where the unkin are gathering for war.

The Vellum, where a fallen angel and a renegade devil are about to settle an age-old feud.

The Vellum, where the past, present, and future will collide with ancient worlds and myths.

And the Vellum will burn. . . .

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:35 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

In 2017, beings that were once human gather to fight to control the Vellum, but to the Irish angel Phreedom it has become clear that there is no divine or diabolic plan at work, only a vicious battle between the hawks of Heaven and Hell.

» see all 2 descriptions

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