Hermux is a wise mouse. This children’s story is fast-paced and an easy read, with a few moments of genius.
Mirrin, a painter who has recovered miraculously from blindness, generates images that are assumed to be cats, except no one believes in cats. “‘There’s a misunderstanding here,’ answered Mirrin. ‘I’ve never said that these are paintings of cats. I don’t know who said that. But what if they were cats? We’re taught as children not to think about cats. Never to speak about them. Never even to say the word. But we do think about them. And we talk about them. At least we whisper about them behind closed doors. The fact is that the idea of cats is real. It lurks in every one of us. It slinks about in the shadows. It stalks us on sleepless nights. It pounces when we least expect it. It toys with us when we’re anxious. It bats us about when we’re feeling helpless. And maybe you think it’s obscene even to mention the idea of cats. But I don’t agree. Being blind taught me one thing at least. Whatever we can see in the light, no matter how bad, is less frightening than what we can imagine in the dark.'” (p. 32)
Hermux is attracted to Linka, the adventurous pilot who flies them into the desert to discover the lost library of cats. Hermux wonders about the danger involved in her work:
“‘I don’t usually tell anyone this,’ she said… ‘I do get scared. Often. But I can’t let it stop me. Or I might as well give up. I try to only take reasonable risks. But sometimes to get my job done I don’t have a choice. I just have to do it.'” (p. 139)
On the verge of discovery, Hermux ponders what proof of cats might mean:
“‘It might change the course of history,’ he thought. ‘It might change everything – who we are and where we come from. What’s possible. And not possible. We’d have to rethink everything.’ He shivered a little at the idea. Hermux liked things just so – neat, organized, and orderly. Like clockwork. That’s what he loved about being a watchmaker. It was predictable. Like history. To Hermux, history had always seemed like a giant clock. It got wound up, and then it ran very smoothly, one thing leading to the next. You knew when things started, and you knew when they ended. And they always happened in the same order. You could count on that. Now if it turned out that the order had been wrong all along, history would fall apart. Hermux, who did not like messes in any shape or form, found himself helping to make a mess of history.” (p. 197)