‘The Library at Mount Char’ is Graphic, Bloody and Not for the Weak of Stomach

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cover58329-mediumWhen I say that makes the TV Show Hannibal sound like a children’s program, I am not exaggerating. Bookish Carolyn, woefully unaware of standard American clothing, walks down a dark road covered in the blood of a police officer. She is upset that her dress is ruined. Thus begins Scott Hawkin’s After decades of being raised by a seemingly immortal creature named Father, Carolyn and her fellow adopted siblings have taken on specific levels of knowledge. For Margaret, it is dying over and over again to understand the “Forgotten Lands.” For David, it is every type of murder imaginable and how to survive the process. For Jennifer, it is healing someone, even to the point of resurrection months later. For Michael, it is how to become and understand any animal. For Carolyn, it is learning every language, but there is so much more to her than imaginable.  The most important thing, punishable by intense torment, is to never get involved with another’s catalog of learning. When The Library at Mount Char begins, Father has gone missing and no one can enter into their adopted home anymore. Their home, is a housing development populated with the reanimated and reprogrammed bodies of the dead in order to maintain a semblance of order. The dead accept UPS packages, mow laws, have pizza and make the housing development appear normal even as it hides a library of documents that stand outside recorded time. While the dead continue to go about their business, the siblings find that a force field of extreme agony keeps them out. Carolyn cons a young former thief, Steve, to help her break into her home and find a way to get past what is keeping them out. That’s when everything goes to hell, quite literally.

This is one of the most gruesome, insane, and utterly violent books I’ve ever read, and I run our site’s Mistress of Death Column. When I say that I personally needed to go watch a Disney princess movie after, I mean this as a warning to those sensitive to violence and death. Margaret, for example, is repeatedly murdered and resurrected in some of the cruelest ways imaginable. Her stinking corpse becomes a common guest at the table, and she giggles uncontrollably because her ability to deal with what has happened to her is completely broken. David brutally murders 37 people at a jail, and the descriptions of the victims’ body parts strewn about are insanely descriptive. One character repeatedly has his eyes burned out with a hot poker, before they are grown back and the cycle starts all over again. A woman has her head bitten off by a lion at one point in the book. There are more nukes employed than the entire Los Alamos unit could have created. In short, if you’re looking for intense descriptions of violence and suffering, the Library at Mount Char has them in droves. Add in the fact that all of the siblings’ training is orchestrated by a man who can really only be described as a type of god, and the reader realizes there is probably far worse that could have happened.

While I found myself deeply embroiled with Scott Hawkin’s book, I would caution strongly that readers with sensitive stomachs or anxiety towards violence leave this book tucked on a shelf and not in their “catalog of learning.” Hawkin’s is a strong writer and excels at descriptions, so it is sometimes difficult to not picture what is happening with intense detail. The book does provide a few light-hearted laughs and the intense friendship of a lion, but by the end of the book these few moments make you wonder what horrible thing is around the corner.

> is available now from Crown Publishing.

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2 Comments

  1. Andrea September 29, 2015 Reply

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