Carol Emshwiller Reviews

Thu 1 Aug 2002 - Filed under: Authors, Carol Emshwiller | Leave a Comment

Reviews: The Mount : Report to the Men’s ClubJoint Reviews

The MountThe Mount

Best of the Year:

* Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“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.”

School Library Journal
“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.”

Laura Miller, Salon
“Emshwiller’s prose is beautiful”

The Women’s Review of Books
The Mount is a brilliant book. But be warned: It takes root in the mind and unleashes aftershocks at inopportune moments.”

Review 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”

F&SF Magazine
[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 forThe 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.

The Philadelphia Inquirer
“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….”

San Francisco Chronicle
“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.”

Fearless Reviews
“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.”

Challenging Destiny

ReportReport to the Men’s Club and Other Stories

The Women’s Review of Books
“Emshwiller sentences are are transparent and elegant at the same time. Her vocabulary, though rich and flexible, is never arcane.”

Jane magazine, October, 2002:

Jane Review

“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.”

Publishers Weekly
“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.

Kirkus Reviews
“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.”

Joint Reviews

The Boston Globe

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 top too.”

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 all.

SF Weekly

SF Site
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 Mountand Report to the Men’s Club are first rate books.

On to:

Carol Emshwiller

The Mount

Report to the Men’s Club


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