Den Of Geek Book Club: The Archived

Victoria Schwab's extremely moving and emotionally resonant The Archived is this month's Book Club fiction choice...

It’s been a long time since I read a book that moved me as much as The Archived did. I don’t know what I was expecting when I picked it up — the blurb on the back makes it clear that this is a novel about death — but I was blown away by how layered and complex the story was. I am always drawn to stories that don’t have easy resolutions, and this one is a good example. Carmen and Owen are completely wrong in their methods and deserved what happened to them, but at the same time they have a really good point: the way the Archive treats its “employees” is absolutely disgusting and would it really be quite as terrible as everyone seems to think if its existence were public knowledge? We’re told it’s because the living would stop at nothing if they knew there was a place where some form of their loved ones still resided, but I don’t believe that. All over the world in almost every culture, huge portions of the population believe in some form of an afterlife, and that they will one day rejoin their loved ones. And yet we don’t see mass suicides daily of people desperate to see their mother or wife again. If what we’re told is true, then we would already see it now. The idea of the Archive already exists in some form in almost every culture and people genuinely believe these ideas to be true. Would it really bring the entire thing down to hear the truth?

Which leads me to believe that there’s something larger at work. The Archive had to start somewhere. Someone had to found it, to shelve the first History, to craft the very first key to the very first door. It goes up higher than Agatha, and to be perfectly frank with you all, I can’t stop thinking about it and theorising. It’s taken me days to sit down and write this book club post because every time I try, all that comes out is a series of question marks and a fervent desire to read the sequel, The Unbound.

I also love the sympathetic touch the writer gives most of the characters — even side characters we meet only once or twice, like Nix, are written with a certain sense of love and respect. When Victoria Schwab writes about Mackenzie’s grieving parents, she manages to walk the fine line between voicing Mackenzie’s hurt and need for her parents’ strength while also allowing us to feel sympathy for them. They’re not villains for dealing with the situation as they have; they’re people doing their best in their own ways; failing their living child, at times, but never because they don’t love her or aren’t trying. Schwab’s characters are humans with faults, never hollow monsters for us to hate.

I hope you all enjoyed the book, and don’t forget that your suggestions for future book club books are always welcome. Aliya will be back mid-March with The Searchers: The Making Of An American Legend by Glenn Frankel. Until then, let me know what you thought in the comments.

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