Pairs Well With: a good ol’ fashioned Irish Car Bomb oughta fuck you up enough to enjoy this whiplash inducing story. The hearty, filling stout base with the poisoned vein of whisky surging through its core perfectly emulates the heavy text and subtle foreshadowing found throughout this book. Plus, Car Bombs are tastier than Hell. The way DPW recommends it to be made is with a glass of Buffalo Sweat, then drop in a mixed shot of Bailey’s Irish Creme and Bushmills Black Bush. Wash, rinse, and repeat at least three times. Will it clarify anything in the first two thirds of the story? Nope. Will it make you giggle like a girl at descriptions of giant, gore covered men wearing tutus? Possibly. Will it make you regret ever being born, the following morning? You betcha, and in that way, you can commiserate with many of the characters in this story of pain and loss.
Author: Scott Hawkins
Rating: 4 Out Of 5 Whiskey Shots
Synopsis: Twelve sibling librarians—adopted and living in a mysterious library—are dutiful to their studies and ardently against allowing anyone to study outside their designated catalog. To do so would mean to upset Father, and if Father is upset, then the punishment is severe. Not even death is an escape from the impossible power of Father. But one day, the twelve librarians find themselves banished from the library, and their Father missing. With the fate of the world tipping towards desolation, it will take all of their cunning, expertise, and the help of some unlikely allies to solve the ultimate question: where did Father go?
Overall Impression: I can truly truly say, without a glimmer of sarcasm or snark, that I love and I dislike this book. I don’t hate it. Hate isn’t a word I would attribute to this strange tale. No, I both love it for what it gets right, and I dislike it for the jarring shift in tone and focus in Act III. Much like my critique of The Age of Zeus, it was fairly clear who the most important characters were to the author based on how little attention and time was given to any of the other characters. Ultimately, there are five (possibly six) main characters, though there are upwards of twenty that fight to have their time in the limelight.
Certainly unconventional, The Library at Mount Char is a fun, complex, brow creasing book that will shock any reader out of their usual rut.
The Cheers: The dark tone, and the nerve to not veer away from unpleasant topics was something I really, really liked about this tome. The main characters (Carolyn and Steve being the two most important ones) have rich backstories that are slowly and responsibly revealed. There is a lot of shifting from retrospect to current events, but the switching of time frames never puts the reader off balance.
Perhaps, one of the greatest achievements of this book is in its trust in the reader. Throughout much of the first Act, there is very little exposition as to what is really going on. We are told what is happening without context, and while that was odd at first, I really began to love it as I read on. Hawkins—while writing—is trusting his readers in a way that almost no writer does in this current age: to figure things out on our own. He doesn’t pander to us; he lets us exercise our intelligence, our memory, and our problem solving abilities to discern what is really happening, and why certain events are significant.
Hawkins also does a superb job at painting all characters in both a glorified and damnable light. There are no wholly good characters here (it is debatable that one of them could be seen as such, but there is still a criminal history that removes them from that designation), and even the figures you start the story hating, you are bound to sympathize with eventually. The inverse is also true. It’s a gift that the most skilled writers are able to execute, and Hawkins certainly does it well.
The Hangover: Unfortunately, I am going to have to agree with many critics of this book. The ending is… meh. It’s certainly not as attrocious as a Stephen King ending (I’m looking at you Duma Key), but it’s also not as successful as a James Patterson ending (no, I don’t view him as a gifted writer, but his endings are almost always reliably well paced and tie up most of the loose ends). It’s an ending that feels like work. And I think in part that that sensation comes from the abrupt shift in tone.
Much of the book is a darkly, suspenseful thriller, full of magic and mayhem and murder; where we as the reader do not know whether the character we are rooting for will be caught or what new twist is about to transpire to advance the story along. The first two Acts are tremendously disorientating and fun. But the last Act is… well, it’s disappointing. It’s very dry, it’s very uninvolved, and really, not a lot happens. More information is revealed, and certainly the absolute ending (the last two chapters) picks up speed and fuels interest, but as a whole, the ending of the book is too clunky and uninteresting to really give the reader the emotional payout we were hoping for.
Corking the Bottle: The Library at Mount Char is the debut novel by author Scott Hawkins, and is a thrillingly dark tale that will engross even the most skeptical reader. While the ending is less than perfect, the book as a whole is a wonderfully morose ride through childhood, destiny, wonder, and what it means to retain humanity in the midst of the impossible; a trippy, fun read that I recommend.