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Oryx and Crake
Margaret Atwood

The Library at Mount Char

The Library at Mount Char - Scott Hawkins Steve, a normal "American" plumber who gets pulled into the Librarians' battle in The Library at Mount Char, often objects that Carolyn’s explanations for how and why things are done don’t make sense. To which Carolyn typically replies, “It doesn’t matter.” And it doesn’t. But that’s the mindset you need to really get into this story, you need to suspend your disbelief. Hawkins gives little teasers, but he doesn’t reveal the secrets of the universe and he doesn’t get wrapped up in the details. Instead he leaves much to the imagination. As Carolyn reminds us throughout, we’re not reading a story about magic, we're reading a modern myth. The characters are complex, the mysteries run deep, and the plot is epic. It doesn’t get much bigger than a battle for the power of the universe. Yet Hawkins delivers this story in such a modernized and unassuming way that it doesn’t seem overdone. It’s fast-paced, full of twists, and a total emotional roller coaster (in a good way).

While there is some gruesome violence in this book, I wouldn’t say it’s gratuitous. It’s balanced with just enough humor that it’s downright fun. David, for example, is equal parts terrifying and hilarious, slaughtering countless “Americans” all while sporting a lavender tutu. But more than that, the book’s violence has a purpose. It circles back to the characters’ humanity and the sacrifices they’ve each made, willingly and unwillingly, for the underlying message of hope. In the end, even Hawkins' cruelest and most horrible characters are redeemed, in a certain sense, and made into tragic figures. Even Father, who is perhaps the most complex of these monsters - the stuff of myths or an Old Testament god - embodies this process. He is fearsome, awesome, and terrible. Yet we are reminded that he is also the redeemer, the one who ended the darker ages (which, we’re assured, were truly worse than anything we can imagine) and ushered in the light that made love, compassion, and life as we know it possible.

By the end I was left with a mix of intense emotions that I couldn't quite pin down. Reverence is the closest I can come to naming it, but I’m not sure it’s the right word. (Maybe Carolyn could help me out on this one.) The various elements of this book - horror, tragedy, humor, myth, sorrow, loss, redemption, hope - all come together so nicely that by the end it’s just...elevated. I truly enjoyed this book and look forward to Hawkins' next work. I’d recommend this to anyone looking for a wild and inventive read.