The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

 

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Like Tyrion Lannister, I used to be a cynic. I thought it possible there were not truly original ideas left in fiction. I used to think, after so many years of reading like it was my job, there weren’t any books left that would knock me on my ass, keep me awake until 4 a.m. when I had to work in the morning, cause me to be so engrossed that I literally did not hear my friends trying to get my attention. I thought I knew things.

Dear Reader, if you feel the way I did, may I humbly direct you to The Library at Mount Char, one of the most bizarre, original and enthusiastically weird things I have ever read. If the thought that I knew what was going on ever entered into my smug little head, it’s almost as if the book sensed it and veered over the edge once again.

Carolyn is a librarian. Not one of these cute librarians:

mummy

She’s not interested in the Dewey Decimal system, she is interested in Fucking. Shit. Up. And boy does she. When we first meet her, she’s walking down the highway, covered in someone else’s blood. She was one of a group of mysteriously orphaned children, adopted by a seemingly all-powerful, omnipotent being they call Father, who may be the Emperor of all of Time and Space. In the millennia he’s lived, Father has acquired a library of knowledge that holds the secrets to all of the universe and his terrible powers. The children live in the library, which is definitely bigger on the inside. Each child is assigned a catalogue to learn exhaustively and exclusively. As time passes (decades? Centuries?) the children toil away in their fields. Their knowledge comes with a price. Over the years, David becomes a killing machine; not that it matters because Jennifer can bring anyone back to life. Margaret can explore the underworld (after David kills her, of course), Rachel can look into the future, but only through the ghostly eyes of her dead children, who she must kill herself. Carolyn’s specialty is languages…but unbeknownst to the other orphans, she’s been doing some extracurricular reading.

When Father goes missing (and it’s not great for a god, even the malevolent kind to go missing) things somehow get even stranger. The Orphans are locked out of their home. Anyone who gets physically close enough to the library suffers strange injuries, often to the point of death. Vicious dogs roam the street. With Father’s absence, the ancient powers he defeated at the dawn of the Third Age of Earth are crowding in, fighting for supremacy and threatening the end of all of human life.  There’s Lovecraftian horrors, the death of the sun, and Steve, the Buddhist criminal-turned-plumber trying to earn an honest living. Also, there are lions. They’re pretty cool.

The last book I reviewed prioritized weirdness over quality, and it suffered greatly for it. The Library at Mount Char has both in abundance. It truly is a book to read over and over again until you’ve managed to glean every last bizarre detail. And yeah, some parts don’t work-there are some plot holes big enough to drive semis through, there’s some glib, caustic, trying-too-hard-to-be-cool dialogue that’s celebrates style to the detriment of story (bro, the sun is DEAD. Is this really the time for your snark?!). But you know what?  I didn’t care. This book is too much goddamn fun to care. It’s the sick guitar solo in a cheesy song. You know you roll your eyes when it comes on the radio. But then, you blast that shit in your car and head bang to your heart’s content.

So sit back. Relax. Bitch-slap a lion. And enjoy the wonderfully deranged world of The Library at Mount Char.

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