Thanks to Simon and Schuster and NetGalley for an exclusive advance reader’s edition of this title for the purposes of review.
When the initial concept of Tom King’s latest rendition on the Caped Crusader was introduced, it left many perplexed, especially when regarding the introduction and usage of the character of Catwoman. While I will not delve into the plot point itself within this review, the overall curiosity of the element is what excites fans for King’s graphic novel release of Bride or Burglar. However, while the art of the book is truly stunning, the actual material or storytelling leaves much to be desired. It teases fans on what the interesting element could provide for both characters, Batman and Catwoman, but it never holds true to the promise that its title suggests. As a whole, Batman Vol.6: Bride or Burglar is a beautifully stunning recreation of the modern Batman mythos but lacks any real substance to warrant a read, to say nothing of a purchase.
What is ultimately the strongest aspect of the book is what it sets up from the very first page. Right from the start, Orlean appears keen on exploring the tragedy of the 1986 Los Angeles Library fire. This thread of the book is masterful in both its design and execution. Uncovering hidden details about the primary suspect Harry Peak was a fascinating ride that almost felt like a quality mystery novel at times. It is a pure shame then that the focus of the title drifts so dearly off course.
As suggested by its title, The Library Book is practically a detailed history of libraries, even including the very creation of the place. While I often found myself charmed with the passion of the topic that Orlean was displaying, I couldn’t help but notice how disjointed the plot thread was with the primary story. In fact, during the confusing time jumps between the place in the history that Orlean was exploring and the fire itself, I had to flip back a few pages just to note where the book was. As a lengthy read, it should not make readers do that. Unlike works like Inception or Dunkirk, the reason for these confusing time breaks is never explained, much less given a proper reason for its existence. Not once during the entire read did I think that it was a worthy addition to the story, that enhanced the experience. In addition, the sheer abundance of this second plot thread confused and deterred me as a reader and fan of the original story. I estimate it takes up more than half of the entire book, causing the pacing to drag to a sluggish and boring speed. Through the week it took to read the title, it never felt as if the writing was ever rewarding enough for my patience and perseverance through its slaggy pacing. It felt like a forced hobby at times, an experience that no author should strive for their readers to feel.
Despite these critical flaws that nearly puncture the book to its death, this title by the author of The Orchid Thief is still able to succeed thanks to just how descriptive and informative it actually is. It is clear from the very start the amount of effort and hard work that Orlean has put into the book. Each new bit of research feels meticulous and detailed, but is never so overbearing as to where I lost my interest. Even though the book was drab and slow, I never gave up on the title as it had these bits of information that proved to be some of the most interesting facts that I have heard in recent memory. In fact, as stated before, The Library Book is one of the, if not the most informative reads of 2018. No other book this year has displayed such a meticulous work of research and information. Based on this one element alone is the confusing storytelling of the book redeemed. Any avid reader or fan of libraries shouldn’t hesitate to pick up this October title just for the information alone.
As a whole, Susan Orlean’s The Library Book is nothing short of a mixed experience. It may feature one of the worst forms of non-fiction storytelling in recent memory due to its drab pacing and overly ambitious design. But it redeems those critical flaws through Orlean’s light and speedy writing style and the sheer abundance of information for readers to devour. It may not be the best book of the year, but it is a worthy read that ultimately still deserves a place as one of the best books that I have read in recent memory.
Score: 7.2 out of 10