I recently finished reading The Invention of Hugo Cabaret by Brian Selznick and my overall reaction to this book could be described in one word – Meh. I don’t understand, how this book reached such high rating on Goodreads. The story is not really interesting, the characters are average, the language is not at any rate superior to other books. Yes, the book itself looks great, especially the black pages and gold colour on the outside. Illustrations are OK, but they don’t stand out as something particularly special. I have seen the movie a while ago and I liked it better than the book. It was more vivid and had better essence to the characters (especially the Station Inspector played by Sacha Baron Cohen).
The story is weird. It uses some elements of reality like the movies and name of Georges Méliès, who was a real person and created these amazing movies, but the story lacks credibility. I really didn’t like Hugo as a character. He was so annoying! Stealing and lying, keeping secrets. A boy age 12 should be smarter than that. Maybe he was truly damaged by his uncle at some point, but the book doesn’t tell about it. He obviously loved his father, who seemed to be a good man, but why did he steal the food, if he collected his uncles wages? Didn’t his father teach him, that stealing is wrong? He was a greedy and obsessed child suffering from the delusion that fixing the automaton will fix his own life. Not a good role model for kids. Isabelle was no better, only she was a bit more clever and didn’t get caught until Hugo dragged her into trouble. It’s hard to judge the character of Georges because I don’t know enough about the real person, but changing from a vary grumpy man into a sweet grandpa doesn’t happen in a day.
The style of this book was quite interesting in the aspect that the illustrations were used to substitute parts of the text. Kind of a mix-and-match. I like this approach. The implementation of the automaton is the only element that is at least partially steam-punk, which is disappointing, as the general impression of the story is that it will be written in this genre. Didn’t happen. Mentioning the movies is the most interesting part of the book and you can find a lot of Georges Méliès movies on YouTube, like the main movie mentioned in the book A Trip to the Moon:
Introducing wider audience to these awesome and truly magical movies is the best this book has brought. To be honest, I would not particularly recommend it. Flick trough the book and watch the movie instead – you will not miss out on anything important. My rating for this book is 5 out of 10, mainly because it has such interesting design and presentation style.
If we talk about the movie, I rate it much higher – 8 out of 10.