Discussions · General Updates

The Great Library Series: Knowledge & Censorship

Hey, everyone! I finally have a little time to post (been pretty busy with graduation preparations, can’t believe it’s almost Saturday already!) It’s been a really good reading week for me. I finished Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller, Ash and Quill by Rachel Caine–plus, I’m halfway done with The Year of Four by Nya Jade. While I can’t share my review for Ash and Quill quite yet (it’ll be up July 4th) I can share a little more about this great series. But, before I go on, please be aware that there will be some spoilers. If you have not read the first or second books in the series, please check out my spoiler-free reviews here: Book 1Book 2. This is intended as a discussion so please feel free to share your thoughts on the series or even just on the topic in general ❤ I always love hearing what others think!

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Besides having some really gorgeous covers, I think The Great Library series creates an interesting world to explore some very real topics. Ink and Bone kicks off the series and sets up the world where The Great Library of Alexandria was never destroyed. In this alternative reality/future, The Great Library is the gatekeeper of knowledge; it’s an institution greatly revered and feared by every country in the world, and it values the preservation of knowledge above everything else–even people. The main branch of the library holds physical copies of books, which it shares with the world through books called blanks with the help of alchemy. Think of these like our modern-day tablets. You want a book, it’s there. Just request it and it’s there in a second. Anything you want. Free. Cool right? Except for one little thing that would probably drive me–and most other book lovers–insane:

Owning books is strictly forbidden. Like, you could face some serious fines, jail time, even death for this.

Of course, this doesn’t stop people from wanting them. As with any prohibition, there is always someone willing to supply as long as there’s demand. Book smuggling is a major part of the story (the main character and his family are book smugglers).

Later in the story, we’re made aware of all the Library’s dirty secrets. Like the fact that they have “dangerous” books tucked away in a collection called the Black Archives. The public is not allowed to read these–they don’t even know that they exist. One of the ideas that they guard the most is that of the printing press. Every time a scholar comes up with the idea they are essentially erased from existence (other writing is destroyed and–usually–they’re killed). They maintain that this is to protect the public. That the device (and other ideas) are dangerous because they allow anyone to print what they want. They can spread ideas unchecked whether they be true or false, or harmful. By ensuring that the device is never publicly known they are able to control what does or does not get printed/known.

This is something that’s happening today in a way with media. If we look at the number of media corporations now versus almost 40 years ago we can see how the number has greatly decreased. So what does this mean for us? Well, it means that a handful of companies are deciding what we see. And every video, advertisement, movie, TV Show, etc. is essentially a message, an idea that’s being promoted. So we have a small number of people deciding what the majority of people should believe. They decide the truth, just like the Library.

We also see the “protection” aspect play a part in different ways in the government. Like when someone is found to be mentally incompetent or unable to protect themselves. In those cases, someone is appointed to represent their interests because they’re unable to make decisions for themselves. In these cases it makes sense. But in the series… do people really need to be protected?

Late in the series, the Library even goes as far as to destroy the Black Archives when people discover them.

I actually thought this was a great point in the story because it shows how even with the best intentions people can do some pretty terrible things. They’re claiming to do everything in the name of the public and preservation of knowledge, but they’re harming people and deliberately destroying ideas. They’re picking and choosing what they want to protect.

I think this book brought up some interesting questions regarding where the lines are when it comes to so many questions. When is it okay for the government/institution to step in and make decisions for us? Should some ideas ever be more important than people’s lives? During wars, the Library holds immunity and is allowed/guaranteed protection to go in to collect books from Libraries so that they’re not destroyed in the crossfire. I thought that was a great thing but… at the same time, we see the Library destroying people’s lives in order to protect books. Their motto is literally that a book is worth more than a life. Even as a book lover, I’m not sure I can agree with that.

This also made me think about the Hunger Games series when Katniss makes her plant book and then also records the true history of the war with the Capitol so that future generations will not make the same mistakes. I think some things are worth fighting for and preserving, that people should be able to share their ideas but then I think about some terrible ideas that are being spread (hate, racism, discrimination, etc.) Should all ideas be protected equally?

So I’ll leave you guys with these questions. I just thought this was something I really wanted to share my thoughts on after reading the series, and I couldn’t really debrief fully in my book reviews without spoiling it. I hope you guys enjoy this and that you’ll consider picking up this book, it’s definitely worth it. Feel free to leave your comments below, and have a great day everyone!

 

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