Old joke: The optimistic child, when thrown into a room filled with horse manure, wades around with excitement: "Somewhere in here, there *has* to be a pony!" <br/><br/>I shared that same feeling, and suffered the same inevitable disappointment.<br/><br/>This novel has a good story to tell. But Hugo fails to tell it well. His characters are not real. When they speak, their dialogue is indistinguishable from the prose, and it all sounds like Hugo. Polarities are juxtaposed. Aphorisms abound. <br/><br/>Hugo is a brilliant man who wants you to know just how brilliant he is, and his editors are clearly terrified at suggesting otherwise.<br/><br/>Some of that is attributable to the time period. <br/><br/>Most of it, though, is due to Hugo's inability to just get on with the story. <br/><br/>Which is there, I'm sure of it. You just need to have the courage and optimism to wade around a bit and see for yourself.