Matt Haig did something unusual in The Midnight Library.
He made me want to commit suicide.
He pulled me so thoroughly into his main character’s life that when she decided to kill herself, I thought: Yep. Good choice. I’d do the same.
Stop it. It’s not a spoiler. It’s revealed in the first sentence of the book. Before that was a quote by Sylvia Plath. If that doesn’t set off suicide bells in your head, then you don’t know Sylvia Plath. Check her out here:https://www.britannica.com/biography/Sylvia-Plath
Pulitzer Prize 20 years after she died. That makes me want to kill myself now. How can you be that good and not be recognized until you’re long gone? I digress.
The important thing is that Haig told the story so well that I thought: Huh. Maybe my death would solve a lot of problems, end some pain. Then I remembered that my biggest problem is, honestly, walking the dogs when it’s raining. Not worth suicide.
So, Haig pulls you in. Then you discover that Nora Seed, the main character, finds her way to a library that exists between life and death. Again, not a spoiler, it’s on the back cover of the book.
The book comes in at an 7/10 on the Feral-o-meter. Very well written and worth the read. Preachy at times. Predictable at the end.
For science it’s a 0/10. I don’t think it’s even billed as SciFi. Speculative maybe. Fiction for sure. Just not SciFi, so no rating is possible or necessary.
Now come the spoilers.
It’s a parallel universes book and a bit like Recursion (see previous review) that way. Almost every book that plays with this idea follows a common theme – you arrive in the parallel universe as your parallel self and have complete knowledge of what went before and who you’re talking to now. Haig turns that on his head. Nice twist, but tedious at times.
The library is full of infinite books of every other possible life you could have led. Wonder what it would have been like to marry that girl from high school? There’s a book for that, and reading it plunks you into that life at the exact moment you departed your own. You won’t remember your wedding, honeymoon, kids, or what you had for breakfast. So, you’re left fumbling your way through your new life until you decide it wasn’t your cup of tea. Presto! You’re back in the library.
After a few iterations of that, I was tired of it. Everyone wants to experience other possible lives, but you want to remember how you got to where you are. It’s not the same to be plunked into a life you don’t have the backstory for. Oh, this person I’m talking to? She’s my agent. I’m supposed to give a talk in an hour about the best seller I wrote. Great, except I don’t even know the title of the book. Stage fright +1000.
Even as that schtick gets tiring, Haig uses it to give us more info about Nora, the main character. That’s redeeming.
You see the ending coming, but it’s okay.
It turns out that your best life…