Author: Scott Hawkins
Rating: 3 Stars
Review By: Shana
This book started out promisingly enough, with Hawkins doing his best work in the introduction. It grabs a reader immediately with a face first plunge into discomfiting strangeness tinged with the echo of violence. Carolyn, our main character, wanders down a highway barefoot and bloody, and we first hear about the librarians of the eponymous library. It doesn’t take much insight to realize that this must be no ordinary library and no ordinary librarians. Hawkins introduces the various librarians, who feel suitably different from “normal” characters. You feel things are alien and unsettled and wrong. Interludes that flesh out the librarians, their studies, and the enigmatic and threatening Father are the best parts of the book.
Over the first few chapters the reader is kept off balance, slowly coming to discover that there are supernatural powers at play, with violence and power struggles in play. But the magic here is dark and the violence less comic book than child abuse and sociopathic disregard. And the promise of the opening wears thin, as Hawkins leaves too much unexplained for the book to make much sense or for the reader to remain invested.
As such, I am more than a little baffled by the (mostly) stellar reviews of this book. While the concept warrants great praise (it is largely unique, multi-layered, and interesting), the execution leaves much to be desired. Most glaringly, the dialog often feels stilted, with normal “American” characters asking questions that seem out of place merely to move plot forward (in rather obvious and inelegant ways) or, worse, to fill space. Much of the detail work, as Hawkins depicts scenes or describes the movements and facial expressions of characters, also feels superfluous – with details offered that do nothing to enrich the story or deepen the characters.
Moreover, when dealing in the here and now and when interacting with characters that are meant to be normal Americans, the characterizations are flat and often one-dimensional.
Jarringly, where a character (rightfully) feels overwhelmed or horrified, Hawkins will sometimes first allow the character to feel this horror and then implausibly have the character easily slip back into non-horrified interactions. It just does not ring true. Finally, the characters I am meant to care about, the ones that drive the plot and one in particular who is supposed to act as a humanizing catalyst for an evermore powerful (and possibly mad) burgeoning god, just never truly come alive.
The final chapters are left rather flat. Not only because they attempt to take a rather shallow and all too credulous character and make him into the catalyst for conscience and world changing love, but because it falls back on that old trope of having everything explained (by a conveniently resurrected character). In the end, Hawkins had a lot of good ideas, but the execution of dialog and creation of characters just did not live up to the plot's potential.
My love of reading was sparked in 3rd grade by the promise of personal pan pizzas via the BOOK IT! Program. Hmmmm... any chance that someone might give adults free food for reading? Asking for a friend...