Book Review : The Book of All Hours I (aka Vellum)

Author : Hal Duncan
Full Title : Vellum (The Book Of All Hours I)
ISBN: 0-330-44433-6

Pitch : Reality is not what it seems. Reality is just made of words written in the Vellum. All the myths, stories, legends and lives are variants of what is written in the Book. Most of us are just part of the background, unaware of the world below what we call reality, but some people, some unkin as they call themselves, can alter the Vellum, or at the very least read what’s in there. These people are angels, demons, monsters, gods, sorcerers.
One faction craves for stability, to preserve a status-quo. Another faction wants to use the power they have for their own sake, for the betterment of mankind or just for fun and freedom.
The only thing both sides hate are rogue unkin. These are hunted down and broken if they can’t be convinced to join either side. The same story of the brother/sister pair and Jack the anarchist is replayed over and over in the legends, and throughout history. Can the cycle be broken?

This book is interesting like an acid trip : it makes perfect sense while you’re in there, everything’s just… you know? And then you have to explain to someone else why it’s a good book. And if your name’s not Hal Duncan, you fail miserably.

The premises of the book are pretty good : language can bind reality. History, myths, etc, all share the simple fact that they exist through a written trace. So if the trace can be altered, so can reality. People who have that kind of power are still people, and therefore imperfect : they can misread, fail to rewrite history, because it’s still visible underneath it all, etc…

Without spoiling the story too much, it’s just the story of how the stable-prone gods get their knowledge stolen by an anarchist who’d rather see it in the hands of the multitude. Where it gets complicated, is that since the characters have all tangled stories (sometimes parallel with other versions of themselves), some of them are their own ancestors, or cross-bred from different realities.

And in all these voices, the one from a “sane” person that’s not an unkin and finds his way across the Vellum, learns about its genesis, but to play what role?


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