Tuesday, October 10, 2023

The Paper Museum, by Kate S. Simpson

In the distant future, no one uses paper anymore and books have been consigned to the Paper Museum.  It's a sad and neglected place -- no one ever comes to visit it, but Lydia loves taking care of the old books and searching for abandoned bookmarks within them.  

Taking care of the museum has always been in the hands of Lydia's family, but since the mysterious disappearance of her parents and the subsequent departure of her beloved Uncle Lem, it's just been her and her mercurial Uncle Renald.  All these missing family members could not happen at a worse time:  technology is failing and the Mayor is convinced that it is the fault of unlawful acts of magic being practiced by Lydia's family.  Books are not only of dubious value but strongly associated with unlawful magic. The Mayor is on a mission to shut the museum down and destroy the books.  It falls on Lydia and her friends to stop him.

It's a quirky middle reader fantasy which I wanted to love for its clever observations on the magical power of books and its critique of how technology is in conflict with that magic.  It is a clever concept, but the storytelling is frustrating. In a mystery, one wants clues and at least the illusion that, if you read carefully, you could figure out what was going on before everything is revealed in the end.  But here there are no such clues.  Instead, we have to wait to the end to have things revealed to us by the author.  That's sort of the opposite of the magic that Simpson is trying to talk about.

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