Shira and Ari Evergreen's Reviews > The Mount

The Mount by Carol Emshwiller
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's review
Dec 15, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: animals, useful-animal-rights-books
Recommended to Shira and Ari by: io9
Recommended for: antispeciesists, people who like horses, anticapitalists
Read from November 23 to 26, 2010 , read count: 1

The Mount is set in a scifi future in which humans have lost our top spot on the planet. Small aliens with superior technology have taken over and convinced us that serving them is now our best option. So the aliens ride on humans' shoulders, using training and tack to keep us in line, just as humans do with horses. The story focuses on one human and one alien who forge a special bond and help the others of both species to change this situation for the better. The protagonist's father, an "untrainable" human treated badly until he's very broken, helps our hero to see that the aliens are not as kind and gentle as they always insist they are. Their words pacify humans, while their actions control and abuse us.

I thought Emshwiller did a beautiful job writing these characters and their world - while the plot might sound pretty far-out, it's basically like reading any old story about humans and horses, except we're in a different role than we're used to. I found the book very interesting from an animal rights point of view. It's a lot like Black Beauty, a story about animal husbandry which is really a story about slavery, because these two practices are part of the same set of oppressions. Swap out the protagonist for someone of any species and you get the same narrative: treating someone else sentient as property, even property to be treated kindly, is not respectful - it is oppressive. I'm curious if non-vegans find that this book challenges their speciesism. (My own vegan conclusion: Don't ride anybody of any species, even if they've been bred to "like it". They probably have better things to do, and your treating them like a vehicle is getting in the way of their self actualization.)

It's also compelling if you look at it as an allegory for capitalism. The aliens fill the role of the ruling class, with the press and the police as its mouthpieces, and the humans fill the role of the working people. We try our best to keep our masters happy, and suffer when we fall short. Like "The Mount" we want our clean stall and our racing trophies and nice running shoes. Like him we're happy when our masters pat us and give us strawberries. And we don't even know what we're missing! As the wild humans our hero meets in the hills show us, we have alternatives, but the messy hair and foraged food and ramshackle DIY housing of freedom isn't very attractive to our propagandized eyes. If the world of "Tames" in "The Mount" is a shopping mall, the world of the "Wilds" is a crusty anarchist freestore.

Whether you're looking at this book from a human social justice angle or as an animal rights role reversal, it provides great solutions. Like all of Emshwiller's work, you might read it for the novelty, but you'll come away at the end with ideas to help heal the world.

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