Strange Horizons, December 9, 2013

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Strange Horizons, December 9, 2013

“The Mother of All Squid Builds a Library” by Ada Hoffmann

Reviewed by Louis West

Ada Hoffman’s “The Mother of All Squid Builds a Library” is a short short about a giant squid who builds a library in the dark depths of the sea out of stone and coral then populates it with the skins of flame-eels flayed alive as they told their final stories. Yet, it isn’t enough for her. She also desires the songs of the whales. They eat her emissaries until one elderly whale decides he has lived long enough and seeks immortality in the Mother’s library. She arranges his skin, flayed while he yet lived, such that the movement of the deep currents echoes his final songs. And the whales are silent in contemplation of what she has wrought.

Different. Disturbing. The Mother’s idea of knowledge is not that from scatchings on dried plant matter but the music of life itself. Perhaps this could be viewed as a precautionary tale, for in humankind’s search for other life, we must be careful to anticipate that what they truly value will be far different from what we cherish.