I know that Brent Hayward is a talented guy. Anyone who has read any of his books knows this. Hayward has a way of exposing some of the darker things that linger in the human mind while at the same time making the reader marvel at the beauty of the written word. I happily got a review copy of his latest novel, “Head Full of Mountains,” and was able to dig into the book to see what Hayward’s twisted mind had spawned this time.
Crospinal has led a sheltered life even though he does not realize it. All along, he had lived a life inside of a pen with only his father and the apparitions of animals and a girl he thought of as his girlfriend as his only companions. His father had told him about his sister, Luella, but Crospinal had no memory of her. One fateful day, Crospinal’s father died and the boy found himself all alone. With his father dead and the machines that tended to his needs breaking down, he has no choice but to wander out into the wider world.
As he ventures out of his shelter, Crospinal soon learns that the world is nothing like he was told it would be. He is faced with the unknown at every turn and had difficult processing what he encounters. To add to his confusion even more, he soon learns that he may have a role to play in the greater universe and he is not ready for this at all. Still in shock at his constantly changing life, Crospinal must learn how to understand himself before he has any chance of understanding the world around him.
Hayward gave us a gift with one of the best science fiction novels of all times in “Filaria” and I honestly thought that there is no way that he would ever be able to match that novel. “Head Full of Mountains” is not as good as “Filaria” but it is fairly close. If you have not read any of Hayward’s works before, be prepared to be shocked at just how good the actual writing is. Hayward completely transports the reader into his world so that the story just comes to life around you. It is easy to become lost in the writing itself and lose track of the story. It is just that good. I almost feel like reading this novel was much more than simply reading a novel but is more of an experience. It is almost like I was floating inside of the novel watching it unfold rather than reading the story. Then, the full power of the story does not hit until after the final word is read. I found myself liking the novel once I finished it but it was only later that night when I could not sleep due to the novel almost haunting me that I came to truly appreciate just how good “Head Full of Mountains” really is.
As for the story, this is a coming of age story with a strong science fiction twist to it. It is easy to relate with many of the emotions that Crospinal is feeling as he must venture forth into the world as he experiences many of the same doubts and insecurities that plague all of us during our lives. Of course, Crospinal is all alone and learning that everything that he believed to be true was just an artificial construct his father put in place to protect him. In essence, Crospinal is emerging from the womb as an adolescent and having to learn almost everything about human nature and the wider world on the fly. It is on this blank slate that Hayward draws the world with all its faults and failings as seen in a bleak future that could come to pass (and maybe already has?). Crospinal has learned to accept things as they are presented to him and it is this complacency that has caused many of the problems that he experiences in the world. Cropsinal has to learn the lost art of being an individual and finds himself on the verge of being swallowed by the world. He must learn to make his own way rather than accept what he is given in order to survive. Above all, he must learn to forsake the known and put faith in the unknown in hope of making a better future. Maybe, just maybe, faith and hope are the things that make us human and could be the salvation of us all. Maybe?
I would like to thank ChiZine Publications and NetGalley for this review copy. “Head Full of Mountains” is available now.