Definitely a page-turner, and a lot less silly than I usually find historical fiction, but I agree with some reviews I've read that say this is a bit...moreDefinitely a page-turner, and a lot less silly than I usually find historical fiction, but I agree with some reviews I've read that say this is a bit longer on pages than it is on story. Also, how could this be said to be a history of Wales? About 70% of the story is about political intrigue in England, and most of the rest is a family drama.
Entertaining, and I learned a lot, but I didn't love it. (less)
A better title for this book would be "The Power of Google and Friendship," which I just came up with as I was writing the spoiler below. If that soun...moreA better title for this book would be "The Power of Google and Friendship," which I just came up with as I was writing the spoiler below. If that sounds trite and silly, then that is in fact the perfect title.
Ostensibly a gripping mystery about books, this actually reads as an apology for the digital age. Which might have been okay if it weren't so poorly written. Observe: "If fidgets were Wikipedia edits, I would have completely revamped the entry on guilt by now" (p 80) Lordy. At another point a character gives a "grad-student grunt" when trying to open a window. What on earth is a grad-student grunt? Between the inane metaphors and the name-checking of smartphone brands, discussion of various generations of e-readers, description of various programming languages, and constant (I mean, CONSTANT) usage of the words "Kindle," "MacBook," "Amazon," and "Google" (by the way, this is really a story about Google, not about a bookstore), this sounds like an 18-year-old in his first creative writing class.
Also, there's a moral to the story. Like, an obvious moral that is actually written out in sentence form as "this is the moral of this story." Ugh.
***MILD SPOILER*** At the end of this book, everyone make lots of money thanks to the power of Google and friendship. Everyone, including the quirky old bookstore owner, becomes either a venture capitalist or has a new start-up. Even the archaeologist goes to work for a computer system. I am meant to feel warm and fuzzy about this, to feel like technology is cool and great and San Fransisco is the Venice of the 21st century (which a character actually says out loud). All I wanted to do when I was done was slap the author a little bit and swear to never move to San Fransisco.(less)
A really fun read, more valuable for the behind-the-scenes nostalgia of the past and the thoughtful contemplation of the present state of the publishi...moreA really fun read, more valuable for the behind-the-scenes nostalgia of the past and the thoughtful contemplation of the present state of the publishing world. The "future" part, on the other hand, is pretty comical to read thirteen years after it was written - to wit, "a significant market for books read on screens has not yet emerged, and in my opinion this may never become the major mode of distribution for books online. The more likely prospect, I believe, is that most digital files will be printed and bound on demand at point of sale machines..." (p. 178) So, fine, Jason Epstein wasn't as clairvoyant about 21st c. publishing as he seemed to be about innovating for the markets of the 1960s and 70s.
Regardless, anyone who loves books, and/or loves a good war story about William Faulkner's drunken foibles and W.H. Auden's party eccentricities, will get a kick out of this. (less)