Review: The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½
Date Read: March 21 to April 12, 2016
Recommended by:
Recommended to:

This book is weird, weirder than most books I’ve read and I’ve read a lot of weird things over the years, but it’s not too weird that it’s composed of abstract ideas and incomprehensible babble. It’s weird enough for me to say Well, that’s new.

It’s weird, yet somehow makes complete sense when you’re reading it, but try explaining it to someone who hasn’t read it and it’s like the words aren’t there anymore. I’ve had close to a year to digest it, and I still don’t know where to begin. At the beginning? The thing is the beginning is right in the middle of the story. If we go further back–to the beginning of time immemorial?–that would take too much explaining, and I’d rather you read the book for yourself, if you so choose.

A word of caution though. This book isn’t for everyone. It’s dark and violent and bloody, and yet it’s also funny and lighthearted at times which can be a startling contrast to the darkness and might be unsettling for some people, but if the tone and atmosphere work for you, it’s an amazing satisfying read. If it doesn’t work for you, you would probably want to set it on fire. I’ve had people tell me that, and I completely understand. It’s brings out gut feelings, and I’d like people to know that before entering the library.

So. The beginning is like this: there is no beginning. We join Carolyn and the other guardians of the library as they gather, from various locations and dimensions, to share what they’ve found and to figure out what happened to Father, a mysterious god-like figure that oversees the mysterious library that isn’t really a library but it’s their home. The plot branches off into a few different arcs as we follow some of the guardians as they try and figure out, at first, where Father had gone, and then, what happened to him. What they know so far is he isn’t on this plane of existence or any of the others. All they know is he’s disappeared without a trace, and they need him back because, once the others figure out he’s gone, they will move on the library. The guardians aren’t strong enough to hold them off.

Further explaining would make it sound more convoluted, and everything that happens from this point on is all spoilers.

The ending was a complete surprise to me, but very satisfying overall. It brings the story arc full circle.

I’m glad to have read this book in the time that I did. It was a nice, pleasant break from real life, and I will always remember it fondly as that weird book that was a lot of fun, but I still can’t recommend it to anyone.

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.”

[…]

Peace of mind is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to cope with it.

[…]

No real thing can be so perfect as memory, and she will need a perfect thing if she is to survive. She will warm herself on the memory of you when there is nothing else, and be sustained.

[…]

As the days and weeks and seasons wore on he found himself repeating this nothing, not wanting to. Gradually he came to understand that this particular nothing was all that he could really say now. He chanted it to himself in cell blocks and dingy apartments, recited it like a litany, ripped himself to rags against the sharp and ugly poetry of it. It echoed down the grimy hallways and squandered moments of his life, the answer to every question, the lyric of all songs.

[…]

“For all intents and purposes, the power of the Library is infinite. Tonight we’re going to settle who inherits control of reality.”

[…]

Carolyn rose and stood alone in the dark, both in that moment and ever after.

This line still gives me chills all up and down my spine.

* * * * *

Still beautiful. Still can’t recommend it to anyone I know. Not sure I understand why I’m drawn to this book. It’s almost as mystifying as the library itself.

* * * * *

I might’ve been a tad too enthusiastic with the rating as this book is closer to a 4 than a 5, but the 5 stays for now.

Truly a fantastic engrossing read. Best of the year so far. I regret not getting to it sooner. Must own in hardcover.

* * * * *

Weird, violent, mystifying, yet elegant.

I’m sad it’s over.

Will have to revisit soon.

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