Chris Ware's Building Stories is a tour de force. Ware boldly defies the digital age, by giving readers the ultimate non-ebook, and not even a book at that - but a 14-piece media experience. In a world where personal interaction is on the decline (don't tell me you've never been in a room and everyone -- yourself included -- is on a device!), Ware gives (forces!) readers to be interactive -- something even the biggest book nerds (raises hand) might find a tad uncomfortable/outside the box.So while curious, I have to admit that I never expected to experience (saying "read" just doesn't quite do justice to this) Building Stories. But Santa was listening and it was under the tree Christmas morning. I opened it later that today, but still had a good deal of trepidation about it. All the different pieces and the "free-style" aspect were overwhelming. Even after taking in the first piece or two, I was still a tad worried, while I was glad Santa supported our local independent bookstore, I also knew that meant Santa paid the full retail price of $50, I'd had better read it and like it!
But as the days unfolded (I took it slow, 14 days in fact -- tho not necessarily at a piece per day - I would recommend this as well, it feels like it should not be rushed), things started to connected and I was really quite impressed with the scope, breadth, and depth of the entire work. I was amazed how a story was really coming together in such a random way. I couldn't tell you what order I read things, but certainly no logical order (I've been reading folks have been "reading" small to large).
I still had my quibbles here and there. Like other middle-aged and/or ocularly-challenged readers, the small print on some of the pieces made me feel a decade (or two) older having to hold some of the pieces just inches from my face. Additionally, I was a bit thrown off or felt some of the side characters in the apartment building were not really necessary in the overall scheme of things other than to further add to the overall tone/themes of loneliness, isolation, and angst (while humorous at times, it's all a bit of a downer). However, the main story and lead female character was very compelling. Finally, I am just not sure I *got* everything.
I have not read (m)any negative criticisms about Building Stories, but my hunch may be that the story aspect might be riding the coattails of the high-quality artwork and presentation. And even then, this is not a good fit for everyone - one needs to be/want to be a bit adventurous. So trying to separate the story (ever so slight wishy-washiness) vs. the art/presentation (firmly impressed), the "book" might have dipped into 4-star territory, but more so towards my non-Goodreads supported 4.5 stars.
Going into the last piece (again, just "what happened" to be the last piece), 4.5 stars is where I thought Building Stories was landing. But then, that last piece ended the experience quite perfectly. It was much like the epiphany I had at the 3rd/4th piece. It felt like Ware had (again) pulled off a magic trick. He didn't know what piece I would pick last, but it worked... and worked beautifully. I am sure many other folks (at this writing, it's at a stratospheric 4.54 average rating) feel the same re: the way/order they were "building stories" here as well. High quality and haunting all along, but for that last minute, gasp-inducing "voila" moment, Chris Ware and Building Stories earns a full-fledged 5-stars.