The Library At Mount Char – Scott Hawkins
Carolyn's not so different from the other human beings around her. She's sure of it. She likes guacamole and cigarettes and steak. She knows how to use a phone. She even remembers what clothes are for.
After all, she was a normal American herself, once.
That was a long time ago, of course—before the time she calls “adoption day,” when she and a dozen other children found themselves being raised by a man they learned to call Father.
Father could do strange things. He could call light from darkness. Sometimes he raised the dead. And when he was disobeyed, the consequences were terrible.
In the years since Father took her in, Carolyn hasn't gotten out much. Instead, she and her adopted siblings have been raised according to Father's ancient Pelapi customs. They've studied the books in his library and learned some of the secrets behind his equally ancient power.
Sometimes, they've wondered if their cruel tutor might secretly be God.
Now, Father is missing. And if God truly is dead, the only thing that matters is who will inherit his library—and with it, power over all of creation.
As Carolyn gathers the tools she needs for the battle to come, fierce competitors for this prize align against her.
But Carolyn can win. She's sure of it. What she doesn't realize is that her victory may come at an unacceptable price—because in becoming a God, she's forgotten a great deal about being human.
Review: Well . . . that was weird. This is seriously one of the most bizarre books I’ve ever encountered. It’s very good, but very strange. I’m not even sure what genre it is. Fantasy? Magical realism? Literary fiction? Horror? Apocalyptic science fiction? I have no clue. Whatever it is, it’s profoundly messed up.
The story focuses on a woman called Carolyn, who was a normal American girl until she was adopted by “Father.” He raised Carolyn and her siblings in a library where they learned the secrets to manipulating the universe. Now, Father is missing, and Carolyn has been implicated in a murder. The American police are after her, but all she cares about is inheriting Father’s library. She wants to become a god like he was. Her siblings are standing in her way. Carolyn has to use everything she’s learned from Father and the library to defeat them and take over Father’s role as god.
I honestly don’t know what to say about this book. I have the mental equivalent of speechlessness. Basically, I’m just staring at the computer screen with my mouth hanging open. I liked the book. It’s one I’ll remember for a long time. I’m just not sure how to explain it because it starts out weird and then gets weirder. There are talking animals, suburban zombies, a dude in a tutu who knocks people’s heads off with something like a medieval mace, a kid who gets barbequed alive. It all makes me wonder about the author. How did he come up with this stuff? I loved (almost) every single strange second of it.
The story has gory moments, but it’s also hilarious. The dialogue is amazing because the characters have big personalities. They hardly ever react to bad situations in the ways you’d expect them to. They’re very calm when planes crash and people die. They just carry on with their business while the apocalypse is happening. I laughed out loud at their observations about the world. Even the animal characters have personalities. By the end of the story, my favorite characters were the lions.
“Steve sighed, wishing for a cigarette. ‘The Buddha teaches respect for all life.’
‘Oh.’ She considered this. ‘Are you a Buddhist?’
‘No. I’m an asshole. But I keep trying.’” – The Library at Mount Char
“‘We’re still waiting on the lab work.’
‘It was a shotgun what did it, though. The same one?’
Dorn popped an eyebrow. ‘Good eye. You in forensics?’
‘Not really.’ He had killed a lot of people with shotguns.” – The Library at Mount Char
I do have issues with the book. For the majority of it, I had no idea what was going on. It took me days to get through the first half of the novel and hours to get through the second half. This book has a large learning curve. At first, I had a hard time staying interested because I didn’t understand why anything was happening, but once I was hooked, I couldn’t put it down.
I also didn’t love the ending. There’s nonstop action leading up to it, and then the plot flounders for a bunch of pages. Then it’s over. It left me disappointed. The only thing I like about the ending is that it shows how out-of-touch with humanity Carolyn is. She wants to rule over humans, but she doesn’t understand the people she’s ruling. She only cares about power. I can think of a few real-life politicians who have this exact same problem.
For me, the characters, the dialogue, and the strange imagery are enough to make this book worth reading. Everything about this story is unpredictable and unexpected. It’s refreshing. I’d recommend giving it a try if you have an extremely high tolerance for weirdness, swearing, and violence. (Humans, animals, and magical creatures all graphically bite the dust.) Just prepare to be very, very confused in the beginning.
“Steve looked through the scope. The house was quiet now. Thin trickles of smoke leaked from the windows. As he watched, Mrs. McGillicutty staggered outside. She was bloody and dazed, but very much alive. ‘Hey, there’s the old lady! What’s that she’s holding?’
Carolyn took the scope and looked for herself, then handed it back. ‘Muffins. She’s got muffins.’” - The Library at Mount Char