Vellum (novel)

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Vellum: The Book of All Hours
Vellum The Book of All Hours by Hal Duncan.jpeg
Vellum first edition cover.
AuthorHal Duncan
Cover artistChris Shamwana and Neil Lang
CountryUnited Kingdom
SeriesThe Book of all Hours
GenreSpeculative fiction
PublisherPan Macmillan
Publication date
Media typePrint
Followed byInk 

Vellum: The Book of All Hours is a speculative fiction novel by Hal Duncan.

It is Duncan's first novel. It was first published in the United Kingdom by Pan Macmillan in August 2005 and then, in April 2006, in the USA by Del Rey, an imprint of Random House.[1]


The Vellum is a reality of which Earth is only a small part. It can be reprogrammed using something called the Cant, and this is what some deities from ancient myths, called the Unkin, have done. One group of Unkin see themselves as Angels, and have set up a Covenant promising to reject any ancient deity looking to regain his or her past glory; they are at the time of the narration getting ready for a final war. A group of newly born Unkin (one can become an Unkin through certain unspecified events in his or her life) who refuse to take part in such war are the main characters: Seamus Finnan, an Irish angel hiding out in the desert; Phreedom Messenger, a trailer park biker trying to avoid conscription; Thomas Messenger, her gay brother who is trying to disappear into the Vellum where he will never be found; Jack Carter, a Covenant spear-carrier sent to kill Thomas but in love with him. Next to them are Joey Pechorin and Don MacChuill (who will gain more importance in Ink, the sequel to Vellum).

The main characters' story is framed within the story of the Book of All Hours, a tome in which Metatron, the scribe of the Covenant, has inscribed the destiny of the whole Vellum; the book has been stolen by Guy Reynard, who uses it to travel through the Vellum. This frame story appears in short sections called Errata, at the end of each chapter.[2]

The events in the novel are described in a non-linear order, with several skips ahead and back in time. The story of the characters is linked to the Sumerian myth of Inanna and her descent to the underworld and to Aeschylus's tragedy Prometheus Bound.[3] It is divided in two parts dedicated to the seasons of Summer, entitled "The Lost Deus of Sumer", and Fall, called "Evenfall Leaves".[4]

Besides the myths and legends referred to, there are also several very vivid references to history, with some of the characters living through such events as the Battle of the Somme or the Glasgow 1919 Battle of George Square.[5]

The seven main characters are archetypes of characters from myths and legends: Jack, also known as Jack Flash, Spring Heeled Jack, Iacchus and Captain Jack Carter (a legendary World War I hero in one of the parallel worlds in which the novel is set), also inspired by Luther Arkwright and Michael Moorcock's Oswald Bastable and Jerry Cornelius;[6] Thomas Messenger, also known as Puck, Tamuz and Matthew Shepard; Phreedom Messenger, known as Anna, Anaesthesia and Inanna; Guy Fox, who is also Guy Fawkes (although closer to his representation in V for Vendetta than to the historic character), Guy Reynard and (the Prussian Baron Reinhardt); Joey Pechorin (also Joey Narchosis and Judas) Don MacChuill (also Don Coyote, Don Quixote) and Seamus Finnan (Shammus, Finnegan, Prometheus, Samuel Hobbsbaum, Sammael).[7]

From a psychoanalytic point of view, the seven main characters can also be seen as the Super-ego as guiding conscience (Guy/Reynard), the wild and libidinous Id (Jack), the Anima and Animus as a triple goddess/god figure (Phreedom), the “inner child” of the Self (Thomas), the Ego that has to deal with society and reality (Seamus), the Shadow as the dark side (Joey), and the wise hermit or old soldier as an image of age and experience (Don).[8]

The author himself defined his novel "a Cubist epic fantasy".[6]

The homosexual theme is also strongly referred to, especially in the character of Thomas/Puck and his relationship with Jack. Puck is explicitly identified with Matthew Shephard.[5]


The reception to Vellum varied.

Some critics found it confusing, although most admitted its stylistic value,[9][10][11][12] while others appreciated its experimental nature.[13][14][15]

It has been criticised as too much focused on "being cool", even though the depth of Duncan's research cannot be denied.[16]


Vellum was nominated for the 2006 World Fantasy Award,[17] won by Haruki Murakami with Kafka on the Shore,[18] and the 2006 Locus Award in the "Best First Novel" category, won by Elizabeth Bear with her trilogy formed by Hammered, Scardown and Worldwired.[19][20]

It won the 2007 Spectrum Award for the best novel published in the United States by a LGBT writer[21] and the 2010 Tähtivaeltaja Award for the best science fiction novel published in Finnish.[22][23][24]


Vellum has been translated into German by Hannes Riffel,[25] Finnish by Nina Saikkonen,[26] French by Florence Dolisi,[27] Italian by Stefania Di Natale,[28] Spanish by Luis Gallego Tévar[29] and Polish by Anna Reszka.[30]


  1. ^ Hal Duncan (2005), Vellum - The Book of All Hours, Pan-Macmillan, ISBN 978-1-4050-5208-5 - US edition: Del Rey, April 2006, ISBN 978-0-345-48731-5
  2. ^ Jay Tomio (2006-05-20). "On the Spot at BSC – Hal Duncan interview". BSC. Retrieved 2010-12-08.
  3. ^ "Author Interview: Hal Duncan". Writer Unboxed. 2006-07-14. Retrieved 2010-10-28.
  4. ^ Lawrence Osborn (2005-12-10). "Vellum: The Book of All Hours Part 1". Infinity Plus. Retrieved 2010-10-28.
  5. ^ a b Craig Laurance Gidney (2010-08-20). "TNG Interview: Hal Duncan". The New Gay. Archived from the original on 2010-08-27. Retrieved 2010-12-06.
  6. ^ a b Joe Gordon (2005-08-17). "Mini interview: Hal Duncan". Forbidden Planet. Retrieved 2011-04-06.
  7. ^ Paul Kincaid (2007). "Ink". SF Site. Retrieved 2010-12-08.
  8. ^ Bruno Gaultier and Jérôme Vincent. "Interview d'Hal Duncan VO". actuSF. Retrieved 2010-12-08.
  9. ^ Thomas M. Wagner (2006). "Vellum". SF Retrieved 2010-12-02.
  10. ^ Russ Allbery (2005-12-13). "Vellum". Russ Allbery. Retrieved 2010-12-02.
  11. ^ Vector, #243, September–October 2005: "Vellum by Hal Duncan"
  12. ^ Luigi Brosse (2009-02-04). "Interview de Hal Duncan". Elbakin. Retrieved 2010-12-08.
  13. ^ William Alan Ritch (2006). "Skin Deep". SciFi Dimensions. Retrieved 2010-12-02.
  14. ^ Jakob Schmidt (2006). "Vellum". SF Site. Retrieved 2010-12-02.
  15. ^ David Hebblethwaite (2006). "Vellum". The Zone. Retrieved 2010-12-02.
  16. ^ "Vellum, by Hal Duncan". AshBooks. 2010-04-13. Retrieved 2011-04-13.
  17. ^ "World Fantasy Convention 2006 - awards". World Fantasy Convention 2006. Retrieved 2010-12-02.
  18. ^ "Award Winners & Nominees". World Fantasy Convention. Archived from the original on 2000-08-18. Retrieved 2010-12-02.
  19. ^ "2006 Locus Awards". Locus Magazine. Retrieved 2010-12-02.
  20. ^ "Vellum (Book of All Hours, book 1)". Retrieved 2010-04-16.
  21. ^ "2007 Best Novel Winner & Short List". Spectrum Awards. Retrieved 2010-12-02.
  22. ^ "Tähtivaeltaja Award 2010 to Hal Duncan". Eating Muffins in an Agitated Manner. 2010-06-15. Retrieved 2010-12-02.
  23. ^ "Tähtivaeltaja Award". Science Fiction Awards Watch. 2010-06-15. Retrieved 2010-12-02.
  24. ^ "Hal Duncan". Gestalt Mash. Archived from the original on 2010-10-29. Retrieved 2010-12-02.
  25. ^ Hal Duncan transl. by Hannes Riffel (2008), Vellum: das ewige Stundenbuch, Heyne Verlag, ISBN 978-3-453-52254-1
  26. ^ Hal Duncan transl. by Nina Saikkonen (2009), Vellum: Kaikkeuden kirja 1, Like, ISBN 952-01-0327-9
  27. ^ Hal Duncan transl. by Florence Dolisi (2008), Le livre de toutes les heures, Tome 1 : Vélum, Denoël, ISBN 978-2-207-25880-4
  28. ^ Hal Duncan transl. by Stefania Di Natale (2007), Cronache perdute dal mondo dei diavoli: Vellum, Newton Compton, Roma, ISBN 978-88-541-0910-0
  29. ^ Hal Duncan transl. by Luis Gallego Tévar (2008), Vellum, La Factoria de Ideas, ISBN 978-84-9800-376-5
  30. ^ Hal Duncan transl. by Anna Reszka (2006), Welin: Księga wszystkich godzin, Mag, ISBN 83-7480-032-1