review: I, Librarian

Rex Libris: I, Librarian

A couple years ago, as I was beginning my plunge into the world of libraries (or whatever the proper term is--a patron asked me today what that was and I had to admit I didn't know), I came across a very enthusiastic recommendation for this series. And so I went to the website, and indeed it sounded intriguing and had spiffy cover art. But I tend not to buy things unseen (and had student loans and college tuition and such to think about), so I said more or less "huh, that looks possibly entertaining" and then forgot all about it.

...until yesterday, when I discovered a copy of I, Librarian at, well, the library. So I picked it up, delighted and with high hopes, and took it home with me.

And was disappointed. Not hugely---bits of it were witty, Simon the wannabe-ruler-of-the-universe-trapped-in-the-body-of-a-sparrow was amusing, and I did enjoy seeing a librarian as the hero of the piece, but--

But I was hoping for a bit more library geekery. I don't know what, exactly, but something about LoC vs. Dewey (vs. some of the more obscure classification systems out there), perhaps? Barcoding? The ramifications of mis-shelving a book? The difficulties of providing subject headings for books that can't be safely opened, or perhaps can't be seen at all because they exist slightly outside our plane of existence? There were a few bits of this sort of thing, which I enjoyed immensely, but most of the story was about Rex tracking down someone with an overdue book. And yes, guns and aliens and mayhem are more fun than the fiddly bits of cataloging, but a fairly big chunk of the story might have been set anywhere weird and wacky, with your generic hero along to blow things up.

Ah, that was harsh. As I said, there are bits of library things here and there, but none of the usual library quibbles (besides difficult patrons) made an appearance. It's a rip-roaring tale, as long as you're not a library person looking for inside jokes (and don't mind a main character who's a bit of a thug). The art's a little blocky and stylized for my taste (I like it for the covers, but not for the entire story), but easy enough to follow, and it's certainly unique. Here, take a peek.

In other words, I still prefer Terry Pratchett's take on libraries:
Even big collections of ordinary books distort space and time, as can readily be proved by anyone who has been around a really old-fashioned second-hand bookshop, one of those that has more staircases than storeys and those rows of shelves that end in little doors that are surely too small for a full sized human to enter.

The relevant equation is Knowledge = Power = Energy = Matter = Mass; a good bookshop is just a genteel Black Hole that knows how to read. Mass distorts space into polyfractal L-space, in which Everywhere is also Everywhere Else.

All libraries are connected in L-space by the bookwormholes created by the strong space-time distortions found in any large collection of books. Only a very few librarians learn the secret, and there are inflexible rules about making use of the fact - because it amounts to time travel.

The three rules of the Librarians of Time and Space are: (1) Silence; (2) Books must be returned no later than the last date shown, and (3) the nature of causality must not be interfered with.