I read the entire book in a few hours this afternoon; despite being about 500 pages it only has about 26,000 words and much of the page space is taken up with interesting formatting as well as sketches that help fill in some scenes of action and emotion to move the plot forward. It's a very interesting and ingenious idea for a book, one I quite appreciated. I almost always focused on the words more than the pictures in storybooks as a child, and I suppose that remains the case here, though it was neat to see how the two were companions in this book, appearing alternately but to the same purpose. At first, I wasn't sure how "into" the book I would be; it started a bit slow and gloomy for my taste--yet gradually the mystery pulled me in, little pieces begged to be put together -- like the automaton Hugo means to assemble--I was eager to learn what picture/story Selznick would ultimatley create. I especially appreciated the elements of magic--nothing you'd find in Hogwarts, but rather the magic of the early movies and how they were the stuff that dreams are made on!
I skimmed through a copy at a cute, independent bookstore in Napa Valley over the weekend. It's quite the thick and lovely book. Now, a word to the wise--the book has MANY more illustrations than I expected! I was imagining a regular novel, with a sketch or two each chapter. No! Pages and pages of sketches separate chapters--they really DO help tell the story, not just in that they illustrate what is going (like children's picture books) but actually serve to progress the story without using any words... Anyway, it's a very neat idea--I just didn't want anyone to be surprised/disappointed if you were thinking the majority of the book is in traditional novel format.