Rehash. Remake. Same old same old. It’s everywhere. Books, movies, video games, television. The same old formulae, again and again.
The upside is that when something truly original comes along, it shines all the brighter. Such is the case with this fantasy/horror from debut writer Scott Hawkins. Impossible to summarise or describe, Hawkins doesn’t so much lead the reader down a road as much as he throws them into a labyrinth as twisted as Pan’s. And every stomach-churning, shocking, and unexpected twist left me open-mouthed and ready to skid into the next one.
The book switches point of view between three characters with various amounts of agency. We have the “librarian”, Carolyn, who was taken in by her “father” along with eleven other young children to become the master of her “catalog”, languages. She recruits our everyman/reluctant hero, Steve in her mission to find her missing father(along with her eleven siblings). And on their trail following a crime Carolyn was caught committing with her sister on tape is the extremely proficient Erwin, renowned soldier turned investigator.
The disappearance of Father is soon revealed to not be localised to the librarians, but the entire universe. And yet, this is far from your typical save-the-world story. It’s got zombies-but-not-really, humans and lions who talk to each other, packs of dogs who defend a neighbourhood off the highway, and a ruthless and highly skilled warrior who conducts his rampages in a tutu. (That last one is actually used, along with other observations in the book, to comment on how little sense a lot of what we do makes when seen from the perspective of people unaware of our cultural norms-or, to them, abnormalities.)
This book pulls off that which few storytellers can pull off-giving us a great deal of foreshadowing, yet completely surprising us with it’s twists (I actually haven’t seen this executed so well since the Prestige.) If anybody reads this book and comes back to me claiming that they saw how it was going to pan out all along, I shall immediately dismiss them as a liar.
Before I go onto the final paragraph, wherein I intend to lavishly praise the book, I know that a disclaimer is necessary-this book is brutally dark. High body counts, graphic depictions of both human and animal death, torture, and a particularly uncomfortable rape scene. Having said that, nowhere, not once, did I feel it was gratuitous. That being said, if books tend to make you uncomfortable, I would perhaps give this one a miss.
And now to tell you the exact opposite. If the above doesn’t turn you away, grab yourself a copy. It’s the type of book that will keep you reading and reading. I had it with me whilst abroad, and I desired to stay in my hotel room and find out what happens next then to go out and explore. I hope that Hawkins keeps writing, and he’s certainly drawn me in. He’s one to watch guys-and the Mount Char library is well worth a browse through the bookshelves.
About the Author:
Rumored to have been born with a games controller in his hand, Noel Gleeson works as a Java Developer in Ireland and loves all things pop culture.