The Library at Mount Char
I stumbled upon The Library at Mount Char by chance, randomly browsing pages on goodreads as I often do when I need something new to read. I had never heard of
author Scott Hawkins before (this is his debut novel, so that's no surprise I suppose).
I don't know what caught my attention: maybe the premise of a library containing all the knowledge in the universe? That's probably it, it's reminiscent of Borges' Library of Babel, which I adored. I didn't expect much anyway. I never do when I pick books almost at random. The reason why I do this is that every now and then I discover a hidden gem, like in this case.
It was a weird read, but weird in a good way. At first you struggle to understand what's going on, often all you can do is think "ok, that doesn't make any sense.
I'll just leave it in the corner, maybe it'll make sense later".
Basically there's a group of adolescents living with a sort of father figure/mentor. They're being trained to... who knows. They're just forced to do crazy stuff, and punishment for failure is often plain masochistic cruelty. But no one dare oppose Father, though. There's a kind of almightyness halo surrounding him. Some even think he's God himself. For sure, he's been around for thousands of years and has stored all his immense knowledge in his Library (capital L is required here, trust me).
Until one day, Father disappears...
It's difficult to empathize with any of the characters (at least in the beginning), simply because they're assholes, all of them. Carolyn, the main character, is maybe just a tiny bit less of an asshole, but that's it. This is something that normally would be a big issue for me in a novel, but not in this case. The story is so good that it kept me going.
“Are you a Buddhist?"
"No, I'm an asshole. But I keep trying.”
This is definitely a novel I would place in my weird fiction shelf, along with the China Mièville stuff. The ideas are as bizarre and fresh as those you can find in a
Mièville novel. But with a MUCH bigger scope. And maybe a little bit less writing skill. But that's no big issue, since 99% of modern fantasy/SF writers have less skill than Mièville.
It’s the notion that the universe is structured in such a way that no matter how many mysteries you solve, there is always a deeper mystery behind it.
The Library at Mount Char is the kind of read you should pick up when you feel the need of something different from whatever it is you usually read. This book will probably qualify, since it's different from... well anything.