Mount : Report
to the Men's Club : Joint
"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
"Adult/High School - This veteran science-fiction writer is known
for original plots and characters, and her latest novel does not disappoint,
offering an extraordinary, utterly alien, and thoroughly convincing
culture set in the not-too-distant future. Emshwiller brings readers
immediately into the action, gradually revealing the takeover of Earth
by the Hoots, otherworldly beings with superior intelligence and technology.
Humans have become the Hoots' "mounts," and, in the case of the superior
Seattle bloodline, valuable racing stock. Most mounts are well off,
as the Hoots constantly remind them, and treated kindly by affectionate
owners who use punishment poles as rarely as possible. No one agrees
more than principal narrator Charley, a privileged young Seattle whose
rider-in-training will someday rule the world. The adolescent mount's
dream is of bringing honor to his beloved Little Master by becoming
a great champion like Beauty, his sire, whose portrait decorates many
Hoot walls. When Charley learns that his father now leads the renegade
bands called Wilds, he and Little Master flee. This complex and compelling
blend of tantalizing themes offers numerous possibilities for speculation
and discussion, whether among friends or in the classroom."
"Emshwiller's prose is beautiful"
The Women's Review
"The Mount is a brilliant book. But be warned: It takes
root in the mind and unleashes aftershocks at inopportune moments."
of Contemporary Fiction
"Carol Emshwiller has been writing fantasy, speculative and science
fiction for many years; she has a dedicated cult following and has been
an influence on a number of today's top writers.... it is very easy
to fall into the rhythm of Emshwiller's poetic and smooth sentences"
[A]s Carmen Dog and "Mrs.
Jones" - Emshwiller balances delicately on the beam, carrying
the tale straight-faced with a combination of precise language, gentle
humor, a near-perfectly pitched voice, and a tenderness toward her characters
that draws us in and beguiles us.... As Kim Stanley Robinson observes
in his blurb for The Mount, we are all mounts -- we're all caught
up in one way or another in systems like Hoot servitude, kept in our
places by fear, or a love of ease, or inertia, or sheer laziness. Emshwiller
reminds us of this, shows us how it happens, and how very difficult
it can be to escape.
"Emshwiller's themes -- the allure of submission, the temptations
of complicity, the perverse nature of compassion -- are not usual fare
in novels of resistance and revolt, and her strikingly imaginative novel
continues to surpass our expectations to the very last page."
The Village Voice
"Carol Emshwiller's elegant new novel, The Mount, is both
fantastical and unnerving in its familiarity. And like her work in romance
and westerns, its genre-twisting plot resists easy classification."
"[Carol Emshwiller] may be the most brilliantly perverse dreamer
of them all.... What is it like to spend a few days alone with Carol
Emshwiller? Startling, a process of immersion very different from encountering
the occasionally piece in an anthology, and a revelation for anyone
unfamiliar with her history...."
"Emshwiller uses a deceptively simple narrative voice
that gives The Mount the style of a young-adult novel. But there's
much going on beneath the surface of this narrative, including oblique
flashes of humor and artfully articulated moments of psychological insight.
The Mount emerges as one of the season's unexpected small pleasures."
"A memorable alien-invasion scenario, a wild adventure,
and a reflection on the dynamics of freedom and slavery."
"...a profound novel of amazing depth and intimacy."
It's a brilliant piece of work...
"In a recent interview with Science Fiction Weekly, Ursula Le
Guin called Emshwiller "the most unappreciated great writer we've got."
The Mount proves Le Guin right.... If Emshwiller is not already
on your top bookshelf, The Mount will put her there."
"...a beautifully written allegorical tale full of hope that
even the most unenlightened souls can shrug off the bonds of internalized
oppression and finally see the light."
"While whimsical and entertaining at times, The Mount
raises some potent questions. It will make you laugh, but it will also
make you think. This would be a wonderful book for classroom or book
club discussions. Buy it, read it, recommend it to your friends."
to the Men's Club and Other Stories
The Women's Review
are are transparent and elegant at the same time. Her vocabulary, though
rich and flexible, is never arcane."
Jane magazine, October, 2002:
"The Mount combines elements of E.T., Black Beauty, Huckleberry
Finn, and some very twisted fairy tales in a way that's uniquely Emshwiller.
It's crazy, horrific, absurd, moving -- and it works, as account of
both individual maturation and a conquered planet's coming of age."
"Carol Emshwiller (Carmen Dog, etc.) lends her elegant
wit to Report to the Men's Club, a collection of 19 fantastic
short fictions treating the war between the sexes. Such tales as "Grandma,"
"Foster Mother" and "Prejudice and Pride" are brim-full of wry insights
into male-female relationships. Testimonials from Samuel R. Delaney,
Maureen McHugh, Terry Bisson and Connie Willis, among other big names,
should send this one into extra printings. Emshwiller is also the author
of a new novel, The Mount."
"A daring, eccentric, and welcome observer of darkly human ways
emerges from these 19 motley tales. Often writing in an ironical first-person
voice, storywriter and novelist Emshwiller (Leaping Man Hill,
1999, etc.) assumes the persona of the outsider or renegade who flees
the community as if to test boundaries and possibilities. In "After
All," the narrator is a grandmother who decides to set out on a "makeshift
journey" in her bathrobe and slippers simply because it is time. The
setting is vague: she flaps through the town and then into the hills,
pursued, she is sure, by her children, and, in the end, she is merely
happy not "to miss all the funny things that might have happened later
had the world lasted beyond me." Both in "Foster Mother" and "Creature,"
the mature, quirky narrators take on the care of an abandoned, otherworldly
foundling and attempt to test their survival together in the wilds.
In other stories, a character's affection for a scarred pariah forces
her out of her home and through a stormy transformation-as in the sensationally
creepy "Mrs. Jones." Of the two middle-aged spinster sisters, Cora and
Janice, Janice is the fattish conspicuous one who decides to tame and
civilize at her own peril the large batlike creature she finds wounded
in the sisters' apple orchard. Janice does get her husband, and through
skillful details and use of irony, the story becomes a chilling, tender
portrait of the sisters' dependence and fragility. At her best, Emshwiller
writes with a kind of sneaky precision by drawing in the reader with
her sympathetic first person, then pulling out all recognizable indicators;
elsewhere, as the long-winded "Venus Rising" (based on work by Elaine
Morgan),the pieces read like way-far-out allegories. A startling, strong
fourth collection by this author-look for her upcoming The Mount."
"This strange collection of stories is populated by creatures
of all sorts, human and alien. The collection-closing title piece takes
the form of a speech given to a men's club by someone who has just been
initiated into membership, despite the accident of birth that made her
biologically female. The other stories range topically from the faith
of a scribe in "Modillion" to love at first sight in "Nose." What makes
them satisfying is the personalities of their characters. Even the shortest
pieces present characters who possess all the force of real persons
who might be standing beside us. For the most part, Emshwiller keeps
the stories simple, engaging us with their characterization rather than
fast, copious action. We stay engaged because they render enough emotion
to sustain our creaturely interest."
"...the news that she has a new collection out, and that the collection
includes seven hitherto-unpublished pieces, is joyous..."
"her long-awaited fourth collection of short fiction is...a
real joy to read. This is a collection to delight and intrigue readers
and writers of all persuasions. Go out and buy it now."
Time Out New York
Carol Emshwiller is
often referred to as a "writer's writer," an ostensibly laudatory term
that usually refers to artists who aren't getting the attention they
deserve. An eminence at 81, Emshwiller is also almost exclusively categorized
as a science-fiction writer or fantasy writer when the truth is that
she uses genre elements in ways that usually subvert the genres she's
supposedly writing in. A sad formula: writer's writer + genre = obscurity.
Thank God, then, for Small Beer, a Brooklyn-based press dedicated to
publishing short-story writers, has released Emshwiller's two new books:
Report to the Men's Club, a short-story collection, and The
Mount, a novel.
Let's start with the stories. Elliptical,
funny and stylish, they are for the most part profoundly unsettling.
In "Mrs. Jones," a spinster tries to one-up her sister in an ongoing
codependent battle by trapping and seducing the angel (demon? alien?)
that is living in their orchard. In "Creature," a man cohabitates with
a massive female monster -- one of a race that has been engineered to
kill him. In "One Part of the Self Is Always Tall and Dark," a woman,
happily convinced that she is going crazy, dreams of long sentences
composed of nothing but three-letter words: "She was far out and tip
As wonderful as the stories are,
the real treat here is The Mount, a fable/fantasy/cautionary
tale along the lines of, say, Animal Farm. It's the story of
Charlie, a preadolescent human who's being used as a horse by shoulder-riding
alien invaders known as Hoots. Charlie wants nothing more than to become
a great Mount, a loyal slave and servant, until his father, a renegade
Mount who has fled from the Hoots and now lives in the mountains, comes
to take him away. Like so much of Emshwiller's work, The Mount
asks difficult questions -- in this case, What is freedom? The issue
is particularly appropriate at a time when "freedom" in America is increasingly
defined as "security"-- freedom from uncertainty, freedom from fear,
freedom from want. All of which is, in the end, not really freedom at
This is a wonderful
collection of short fiction, marked by tremendous variety, a wonderful,
funny, knowing, and sympathetic voice, and a truly off-center imagination....
Carol Emshwiller is a real treasure. She seems underappreciated to me,
but this late burst of productivity may help remedy that situation.
Both The Mount and Report to the Men's Club are first
to the Men's Club