Novel Review - The Mount by Carol Emshwiller
by Carol Emshwiller, 2002, 232 pages
TLDR: 5 out of 5 stars for this quirky and wonderfully written parable of friendship.
I read this with my pal and yours, @Ray_Otus , at his suggestion. Thanks Ray!
The Mount is an unusual book - on the surface it's a novel about the interaction between humans and a race of aliens (called Hoots by us humans). It takes place on earth, or perhaps another world colonized by humans in some distant future. The hoots arrived generations ago and, due to their superior senses, intellect, and hooting power, have become the dominant species. Humans are now relegated to the roles of mounts - dear, beloved, cared-for mounts - upon which the hoots ride.
The story is mostly told in the first person from the point of view of Charley (hoot name: Smiley), a young Sam (male) of the Seattle breed. He's the chosen mount of His Excellent Excellency About-To-Be-The-Ruler-Of-Us-All (aka 'Little Master'), a baby hoot of rather obvious import. Both characters are young, and both are being trained in the arts of riding and running together.
One day Charley and some other mounts are broken out of their stable by Heron, Charley's father, who is now a 'wild' or rebel who lives up in the hills. Charley is too young to imagine life without master though, so he persuades his father to 'rescue' Little Master as well, and the two are brought into the wilds together. What follows is the story of Charley and Little Master as they navigate their own growing relationship while the Tamed and the Wild head together for a final clash.
The book is a parable for friendship and getting along. It speaks most openly about our relationship with horses, yes - placing the humans as mounts so that we can see, perhaps, a little of what it might be like to be a horse. And yes, this is an obvious metaphor for the master-slave relationship. This probably has you thinking "meh, I've seen this before". But this book goes much deeper than the obvious, and speaks also to love, friendship, marriage, parenthood, racism, and just about any kind of human relationship you can imagine.
I found this book to be very satisfying. The characters are well drawn and varied. The main character, Charley, seems a bit simple and naive, but that allows you to read between the lines more and draw your own conclusions without the author intruding. The story is also bit simple, but maybe that's necessary so as not to draw too much attention from the characters and their relationships with one another. And like any good parable, it both teaches and entertains. Recommended without reservation - a 5 out of 5 for me.