cover image THE MOUNT


Carol Emshwiller, . . Small Beer, $16 (242pp) ISBN 978-1-931520-03-4

Like Emshwiller's startlingly perceptive short fiction and her previous novel, Carmen Dog (1990), where women begin to degenerate into animals and animals start evolving upward into womanhood, this novel turns our supposed certainties into beautiful and terrible insights. Writing in skeletal prose from the adolescent point of view of Charley, a boy who dreams of becoming a famous racer (ridden by his alien Little Master, the reptilian? avian? marsupial? Future-Ruler-of-Us-All), Emshwiller picks up human history several generations after a successful Hoot invasion has turned most of humanity into "mounts," bred for speed and beauty and trained with whips and savage bits to do their masters' will. In the mountains, though, a few wild humans lurk, led by Charley's father, plotting to rise up against the Hoots and take back the world they lost. Glimpses of arresting sorrow meld here with teenage dreams and hopes and anguish, shaped subtly with a poet's sure touch into finely crafted characterizations of human-as-not-quite-animal, Hoot-as-not-quite-monster, coming together through heartbreak and abandonment of previously hard-held prejudices. Brilliantly conceived and painfully acute in its delineation of the complex relationships between masters and slaves, pets and owners, the served and the serving, this poetic, funny and above all humane novel deserves to be read and cherished as a fundamental fable for our material-minded times. Agent, Wendy Weil. (Aug. 1)

Forecast:Blurbs from Glen David Gold, Kim Stanley Robinson, Maureen McHugh and Connie Willis, among other big names, will ensure lots of attention for this small press item, which should go quickly into reprint. It's a natural for classroom adoption at the high school or college level.