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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Drawings of Pee-Pees and Wee-Wees: This Book Does Not Exist

This Book Does Not Exist is the debut novel by Mike Schneider. At first, it seems to have the simple premise of a love story between two young adults who meet purely by accident, but as the story goes on, it evolves into a bizarre, science fiction piece about multiple universes and making choices that could change the future.

The main protagonist shares his name with the author, and, much like the author himself, is a hopeful screenwriter. From a small town in Ohio, Mike eventually moves to California in order to make his dream a reality, taking a job as a paid blogger in the meantime to keep money coming in until he catches a break. On a trip home to see family, he happens to meet a girl named Naomi, who went to the same school as Mike and lived not far from but, for whatever reason, the two never met during their younger days. Naomi is in town for the same reason as Mike, visiting from New York, where she plans to go to med school. The two agree to stay in touch before going their separate ways back to their respective adopted homes.

After trading emails, texts and Facebook messages, Mike and Naomi start falling in love and begin seeing each other long distance, alternating taking trips to California and New York. Eventually, they decide that the distance is too much, and they want to live together. Naomi wants to stay in New York to continue her education, but Mike wants to stay in California, as he has the best chance of succeeding at his dream job there. After some fighting, Naomi finally concedes and agrees to move to California, with plans to go to med school there instead. They make arrangements, and on the day she is set to move, Mike agrees to drive to Ohio and meet her halfway, driving the rest of the way back.

On the day Mike goes to pick her up from the airport, Naomi isn't there.

Wondering where she is, Mike begins to contact all of Naomi's friends and family, trying to find out any information he can on her whereabouts. Unfortunately, absolutely no one has any information, with everyone only knowing she was headed to be with him in California. He checks her Facebook, calls her family, checks his email, and everything else he can think of, but there are no traces of her anywhere.

A few months go by as Mike falls into depression, losing the girl he loved, continuing to try and track her down. There are no changes until, one day, he receives a friend request from someone only calling themselves "Geppetto W.". At first, it seems just like a harmless friend request from someone using a fake name, until Geppetto sends Mike a message that he has information on Naomi, and that Mike needs to get to Ohio right away if he wants to save her.

After debating, Mike realizes he needs to take a chance and heads to Ohio, somehow getting lost on the way and winding up right in front of Geppetto's house, despite not being nowhere near the area just moments ago. Mike steps inside and, through a lone red door in the house, steps into an alternate dimension. Here, he meets Geppetto, who informs him that Naomi herself opened a door similar to the one Mike just opened, and may be lost in this other dimension. If Mike wants to save her, he will be forced to take several tests involving several famous moments in history, and whether or not he makes the right choices will determine if he and Naomi are eventually reunited.

This Book Does Not Exist starts off like a standard romance story, but after the first few chapters, when Naomi disappears, is where the book really gets interesting. With each passing chapter, you wonder if and when Mike & Naomi are going to reunite, or if Mike is simply going to have to go over yet another obstacle in what seems like a never-ending quest. Each time Mike thinks he might be close to the truth, Geppetto and his universe throw another roadblock in the way, always with seemingly impossible odds to overcome. The tests involve varied environments, from the street Naomi grew up on, to the book depository in Texas where JFK was shot, to even the top of the World Trade Centers during 9/11. With these environments and a character as mysterious as he is fascinating in Geppetto, not to mention countless twists and turns on nearly every page, the book kept my attention from beginning to end, finishing it over just a couple days.

As you might have guessed, social networking is plays a hefty part in the book. However, Schneider makes its use very interesting, as it is the only way Geppetto stays in contact with Mike outside of face-to-face appearances. On top of that, there are direct links posted in the book which, if you read it on a table or e-reader with internet access, can take you directly to the sites in question, which give the book a very interactive aspect, including a video near the end of the book that really helps give it an emotional attachment.

As engrossing as the book is, I have only one complaint, and it's one I shared with the author himself. Despite the great story and vivid telling on the author's part, the ending is very disappointing. It's not bad, by any means, but has a completely different feel from the rest of the book and just feels so abrupt. Mike goes from having this wild journey for who knows how many days, and then in one chapter, without spoiling anything, the adventure just stops, and Mike is moving. It almost felt like Mike Schneider the author kind of hit a bump at the end, and wasn't quite sure how exactly the story should end. It's unfortunate, because the ending of a book can make or break it for some people.

Having said that, overall, it's an excellent, exciting read, and Mike Schneider is a very talented, gifted young author. He has told me he has no plans for another novel at this time, as he is trying to get his screenwriting career to take off, but I hope he does reconsider down the road. I think he's got a lot of talent, and a fresh perspective on two styles of writing-love stories and sci-fi-that are new and fresh.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the insightful review, Dustin. If any new readers come to the book via this page, I can be found as @onemikey on Twitter and on Facebook at and