Wednesday, July 09, 2008

_The Mount_ by Carol Emshwiller

I've heard the idea that young adult novels are a pocket of innovation amongst today's literature expressed in several venues recently, and seen it on the web, most recently on BoingBoing. But I'd already formed the habit of checking out the Young Adult books at our local library now and then. Recently I found a gem: The Mount, by Carol Emshwiller.

The hallmark of a great young adult book is that the perplexed adult reader ends up scratching her head, wondering "Why is this called a young adult book"? And the only answer, generally, is that it has a youngster as a protagonist.

I think it was my wife Tanya who pointed out that this automatically eliminates, for the most part, a lot of activities that parents don't want their kids reading about. If the kid protagonist acts like a kid, the book's probably okay for a kid to read. That means an author aiming at the Young Adult bookstore category doesn't necessarily have to pull punches or aim low.

The Mount doesn't do any of that. It's about a young man who grows up on an Earth dominated by aliens, where only vestiges of human society are left. It's sensitive to the compromises inherant in being someone valued by a social order that inherantly discriminates against your kind. And it comes up with better than ordinary solutions.

The book begins with Charley, the protagonist, as a prized young Mount. The aliens of the book, who are called Hoots, breed and raise humans to be ridden and shown off. Charley's trouble starts with how he has to figure out that he has a problem at all: he's an important Mount to an important master, and so he's treated well and told endlessly about how lucky he is.

There are graphic examples, though, of how badly things can go for an unlucky, or more likely recalcitrant, mount. So Charley is slowly able to figure out that the situation is unjust. How he reacts to that, while still caring for his "little master", make up the bulk of the book. And the fact that he never loses sight of his fondness for his "little master" is what makes the book stand out as a weird and wonderful work.

Here's another review I found online for this book.

No comments:

Post a Comment