The Mount, by Carol Emshwiller, is freaking amazing.
Charley is a Seattle – he’s big and strong, and has beautiful posture. He’s so much better than a skinny little Tennessee. His bloodline is pure. And he’s been chosen, as the mount for The-Future-Leader-of-Us-All. He learns all the commands he needs to, so he doesn’t get lashed, he doesn’t need to wear a bit or a bridle. His handlers call him ‘Smiley’, because he smiles so much. He likes strawberries, and chocolates – and his handlers are ever so nice.
Charley is a human being. And for the last however many years since the Hoot invasion, they’ve been using us as their steeds. They have atrophied legs, you see. And they’re always so kind. But you have to be cruel to be kind, sometimes.
Emshwiller has written the perfect post-invasion story with The Mount, and it very deftly exploits the dynamics between slave and master, between rebels and government, and between learning the truth, or choosing the master’s fictions.
I read this book in less than a day, I honestly could not put it down. It’s a little bit Young Adulty, which I was worried would turn me off the novel – but it absolutely didn’t, I loved it.
To any of those fools who say “Women can’t write science fiction” (and yes, I absolutely think that you’re wrong, and a damned fool) I want to just shove a copy of The Mount into your hands and walk away. It is absolutely brilliant – by inverting the dynamic between predator and prey (a man on a horse is a predator, utilising a prey-beast to catch more prey) she very fully explores this world she has created.
And even better: no-one wins.