The Mount

Carol Emshwiller  - published August 2002

Philip K. Dick Award Winner
Nebula Award finalist
Best of the Year: Locus, Village Voice, Book Magazine
Impac Award nominee
The Carol Emshwiller project.

New: io9: 10 Ultra-Weird Science Fiction Novels that Became Required Reading

Charley is an athlete. He wants to grow up to be the fastest runner in the world, like his father. He wants to be painted crossing the finishing line, in his racing silks, with a medal around his neck. Charley lives in a stable. He isn’t a runner, he’s a mount. He belongs to a Hoot: The Hoots are alien invaders. Charley hasn’t seen his mother for years, and his father is hiding out in the mountains somewhere, with the other Free Humans. The Hoots own the world, but the humans want it back. Charley knows how to be a good mount, but now he’s going to have to learn how to be a human being.

Start reading now:
“We’re not against you, we’re for. In fact we’re built for you and you for us — we, so our weak little legs will dangle on your chest and our tail down the back. Exactly as you so often transport your own young when they are weak and small. It’s a joy. Just like a mother-walk.” Read Chapter One

Reviews and reaction to The Mount:

“Compelling.” — Charlie Jane Anders,

“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.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“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.”
School Library Journal

“Most definitely a strange novel. . . . Emshwiller’s prose is beautiful.”
—Laura Miller, Salon

“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 Philadelphia Inquirer

The Mount, particularly, is a marvel; originally published by a tiny Massachusetts art-house publisher, this novel—about a distant future wherein humans are content to be the transport animals (complete with bits and saddles) for tiny aliens who have enslaved us—is so refreshingly weird and allegorical that it evokes some of the earliest masters of the genre, like Orwell and Verne.”
The Stranger

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

“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.”
The Village Voice

“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.”
San Francisco Chronicle

“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.”

“A brilliant piece of work.”

“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.”

“She writes such hard good sentences.”
—John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats

The Mount is so extraordinary as to be unpraiseable by a mortal such as I. I had to keep putting it down because it was so disturbing then picking it up because it was so amazing. A postmodernist would call it The Eros of Hegemony, but I’m no postmodernist. Nearly every sentence is simultaneously hilarious, prophetic, and disturbing. This person needs to be really, really famous.”
— Paul Ingram, Prairie Lights Bookstore

“We are all Mounts and so should read this book like an instruction manual that could help save our lives. That it is also a beautiful funny novel is the usual bonus you get by reading Carol Emshwiller. She always writes them that way.”
— Kim Stanley Robinson, author of The Years of Rice and Salt

“I’ve been a fan of Carol Emshwiller’s since the wonderful Carmen Dog. The Mount is a terrific novel, at once an adventure story and a meditation on the psychology of freedom and slavery. It’s literally haunting (days after finishing it, I still think about all the terrible poetry of the Hoot/Sam relationship) and hypnotic. I’m honored to have gotten an early look at it.”
— Glen David Gold, author of Carter Beats the Devil

“This novel is like a tesseract, I started it and thought, ah, I see what she’s doing. But then the dimensions unfolded and somehow it ended up being about so much more.”
— Maureen McHugh, author of After the Apocalypse

“Carol Emshwiller’s The Mount is a wicked book. Like Harlan Ellison’s darkest visions, Emshwiller writes in a voice that reminds us of the golden season when speculative fiction was daring and unsettling. Dystopian, weird, comedic as if the Marquis de Sade had joined Monty Python, and ultimately scary, The Mount takes us deep into another reality. Our world suddenly seems wrought with terrible ironies and a severe kind of beauty. When we are the mounts, who — or what — is riding us?”
— Luis Alberto Urrea, author of Six Kinds of Sky

About the Author

Carol Emshwiller is the author of six novels including Carmen DogLedoyt, Mister Boots, The Secret City, and Leaping Man Hill, as well as collections of short fiction: Joy in Our Cause, Verging on the Pertinent, The Start of the End of It All, Report to the Men’s Club, I Live with You, Master of the Road to Nowhere, and two volumes of Collected Stories. She grew up in Michigan and France. She lives in New York City.

Praise for Carol Emshwiller’s previous books:

“[Ledoyt is] a fierce and tender portrait of a girl growing up fierce and tender; a sorrowful, loving portrait of a man whose talent is for love and sorrow; a western, an unsentimental love story, an unidealized picture of the American past, a tough, sweet, painful, truthful novel.
—Ursula K. Le Guin, author of Tales of Earthsea

Ms. Emshwiller is so gifted. . . . She describes the ragged, sunswept Western countryside with a vividness and clarity that let us see it as her characters do—and understand why they love it as they do. There are moments of [Ledoyt] that are remarkably moving; there are scenes of great power.
New York Times Book Review

[Ledoyt is] as haunting as the song of a canyon wren at twilight.—Atlanta Journal

Leaping Man Hill is a satisfying novel, with complexities not susceptible to easy summary, as well as those quirky characters and some playful language. Finally, though, it is dominated by Emshwiller’s sure development of Mary Catherine. Readers who grow with that young woman may remember this book a long time.
San Francisco Chronicle Book Review

[Leaping Man Hill is] another strong, satisfying western . . . a headstrong young heroine succeeds in finding her niche in the ranch country of post-WWI California. . . . An exuberant yet exquisite portrait of a woman coming into her own.
Kirkus Reviews

Emshwiller has produced a first novel that combines the cruel humor of Candide with the allegorical panache of Animal Farm. In the hyper-Kafkaesque world of Carmen Dog, women have begun devolving into animals and animals ascending the evolutionary ladder to become women. . . . there has not been such a singy combination of imaginative energy, feminist outrage, and sheer literary muscle since Joanna Russ’ classic The Female Man.
Entertainment Weekly

Emshwiller knows well the marvelous inexplicability of love, jealousy, and heroism.
Library Journal

First and foremost, Emshwiller is a poet—with a poet’s sensibility, precision, and magic. She revels in the sheer taste and sound of words, she infuses them with an extraordinary vitality and sense of life.

Emshwiller’s characters embrace the unexpected and extraordinary; their lives leap from the mundane to the wondrous in a surreal instant, and the reader feels transported too.
Publisher’s Weekly