As seen on Stumptown Books
This was my first foray into the work of Jim C. Hines, but come to find out, after poking around the internet this past week, the guy is pretty awesome. I'll admit to being completely ignorant that there was such a Hugo award as "best fan writer" until Hines won it this year - apparently it's for writers of works related to science fiction or fantasy which appear in low- or non-paying publications, such as semiprozines or fanzines (taken from Wikipedia
). Now what's a semiprozine, you ask? Good question!
At any rate, Hines is obviously recognized in the genre as being a cool and talented guy. Earlier this summer, he discontinued a Reddit Q & A after discovering a, now infamous, Reddit thread asking about rape from the point of view of the rapist. I'm not going to get into how upset I was when I discovered that thread was a thing. Here's
all the details about Hines' reaction and his subsequent withdrawal from the Reddit community. All that happened before I had any inkling I might be picking up Libriomancer
soon, but that was an awesome move and go him for pointing out how messed up that thread was.
The first scene in Libriomancer
had me giggling and mumbling with incoherent joy. The second we're plopped down into a world where the magic is based off of readers beliefs - I was sold. Normally, intense amounts of modern or genre references really get on my nerves, but for some reason, this time I was okay with it. It never came across as smug or neck beardy, just a genuine love for nerdy stuff. It helped that the protagonist was a 30-something librarian who just loved books a ton, and there was not much else to it. He basically got a wish granted that every reader would kill to have - the ability to reach into the pages and remove an item. As long as it would fit through the pages, of course.
Wow! What an amazing idea. The possibilities are practically endless. Soon I was imagining all the swords you could remove, the laser guns, the mechanical toys and gadgets. At one point he even mentions reaching into a book where a character has access to a library that holds all books, past, present, and future. Just like that, you have access to every book. EVER! The reader in me practically fainted at the possibility.
The magic system was obviously very well thought out. Hines had considered a number of possibilities, such as the One Ring, and made a safeguard against them making it into our world. Books lose their power if you abuse them, and using magic wears you out as much as going for a run does, that sort of thing. It's important to have little things like that planned for, otherwise your characters become unstoppable machines way too quickly.
A friend on Goodreads brought up a good point - what about e-readers? Does it work if the words are there but the book is not? I am leaning towards no, because of a few ground rules Hines lays down. Like you can't just print a book to be bigger and therefore be able to remove a bigger item. But reading the words on an e-reader still creates a common belief system. I've read the exact same Twilight
that everyone else did, it was just on a different screen. So then what about the internet? A monitor is just a more complicated e-reader, after all. So what, by proxy, about TV or movies?
That got complicated really fast. But e-readers are a valid point, and a lot of modern readers are moving away from bound books. I will be interested to see if he takes this anywhere in the sequels.
So, the magic system was AMAZING. What about the story and the characters?
I enjoyed the roller coaster ride of the story. We fling around the Midwest, trying to defeat bad guys. All the time we glean more information about the magic system, while Isaac slowly learns more about the shadowy society he's always been a part of. The stakes get higher quickly, and I really wanted to know what was going to happen. I was also constantly interested in what new toy he was going to pull out of some random sci-fi novel, of course, but he only does so because shit starts to go wrong. It got to the point where I couldn't wait for an action scene because I wanted to see what he would pull out. That is the exact opposite of how I usually read books, where I often dread long action scenes.
Isaac has a familiar, and he is awesome. It's a little fire spider named Smudge that Isaac had libriomanced out of some fantasy book or another. He was unable to put the spider back in because Smudge would burn the book whenever he came close. Heehee! I love it. He was an awesome little sidekick and I look forward to hearing more about him in the future.
Now, the love story...therein lie all my issues with this book.
It was uncomfortable at best, and unrealistic and insulting at worst. Without getting into it too much, basically the love interest is a nymph whose powers stem from her ability to become whatever her love interest wants her to be.
Let's go over that again. The libriomancer, Isaac, has the super power to pull whatever the crap he wants out of a book and do some awesome shit with it. The love interest, the nymph, has the super power of sexual wish fulfillment.
Why, when he had the entirety of human knowledge and fantasy at his fingertips, is THAT the love interest he went with? Anything she did, I felt dirty reading. She's not her own person, she's only whatever her current lover wants her to be. She has no thoughts or actions of her own.
Alright, so she spends a large part of the book explaining that and hoping and wanting to change her nature. It doesn't matter, she is CREEPY, and she can't change who she is. Even the way that storyline resolves itself is an uncomfortable fantasy fulfillment. Now, when I say that, I mean it is a fantasy fulfillment ONLY FOR MEN. And especially for nerd men, who might have issues with relationships. Problem solved! Give them a female who will actualize their every fantasy.
Sure, Isaac professes to have issues with it, but it doesn't matter. He still wants her to be his.
If anyone needs an example as to why nerd men fail at writing women, this is it. That's not to say they all do. Sometimes it can be great. But this particular romance is the exemplar of what nerd guys do wrong when writing women. It's unhealthy to look at women this way, folks. That should be a no-brainer.
Goddamn I hated this part.
Okay, deep breaths.
Setting the love interest aside, very carefully.
After that rant you're probably asking why I gave this 4 stars. Seriously, besides the love interest, I enjoyed everything else about this book. Maybe future novels will fix my issues with that part. In the meantime, this was a really fun ride. Anyone who enjoys reading will love it, and especially if you are into sci-fi or fantasy.