AUTHOR INFORMATION: John Scalzi’s debut novel, Old Man’s War, was a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Novel. His other science fiction novels include Agent to the Stars, The Android’s Dream, The Ghost Brigades, The Last Colony, and Zoe’s Tale. He has also written several non-fiction books, The Sagan Diary novella, various short fiction, and edited the anthology METAtropolis. In 2006, John Scalzi won the John W. Campbell Award for Best Writer, and in 2009 won the Hugo Award for Best Related Book for Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever 1998 – 2008.
CLASSIFICATION: Despite mostly taking place on the spaceship Righteous, The God Engines is not really science fiction. Instead, The God Engines is a tale of dark fantasy with parts of the novella falling into horror territory. Think Steven Erikson meets Tim Lebbon meets Clive Barker…
FORMAT/INFO: The God Engines is 136 pages long divided over eleven chapters. Includes interior illustrations provided by Vincent Chong. Narration is in the third-person, exclusively via Captain Ean Tephe. The God Engines is self-contained. The God Engines is scheduled for publication in December 2009 via Subterranean Press and will be available in two editions: 1) A fully cloth-bound hardcover and a 2) Signed/Numbered fully leather-bound edition limited to 400 copies. Cover art provided by Vincent Chong.
ANALYSIS: John Scalzi is another author I’ve never read before, even though I own several of his novels. It’s an oversight I’ve been meaning to correct for some time now, but just never got around to doing. However, that all changed as soon as I heard about John Scalzi’s novella, The God Engines. Billed as the writer’s take on fantasy that “takes your expectations of what fantasy is and does, and sends them tumbling,” The God Engines instantly intrigued me and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy. Much to my pleasure, The God Engines is every bit as good, if not better, than advertised.
In The God Engines, John Scalzi introduces readers to a dark and chilling world where gods not only exist, but can also be tortured, enslaved, or even killed. A world where science has been replaced by faith, where Defiled gods are used as ‘engines’ to power spaceships, where followers may be blessed with Talents — “a thing gods give followers to channel their grace, so the followers may use that grace to their own ends” — and where faith is a tangible power. A world of rooks, Bishop’s Men, and commentaries. A world that is highly imaginative, mostly original (parts of the novella reminded me of James Clemens’ Godslayer Chronicles), immersive despite having only 136 pages to bring the concept to life, and utterly captivating.
In this grim, yet fascinating world, readers will meet a small and well-drawn cast of characters — Captain Ean Tephe of the ship Righteous, Priest Andso, Commander Neal Forn, rook Shalle, the Defiled of the Righteous — who play a pivotal role in the events recorded in The God Engines. Events that are straightforward for the most part, but culminate in an explosive and mind-blowing finish full of dark twists and shocking revelations…
Negatively, I have just one complaint with The God Engines… it’s too short. Most of the novellas I’ve read before were set in established universes that I was already familiar with (Steven Erikson, Alan Campbell, Tim Lebbon, etc), and therefore worked extremely well as complimentary pieces or introductions to the author. As far as I know, The God Engines is not part of an already established universe, and is somewhat of a departure from the author’s other work, so it doesn’t really fall in either category. Instead, The God Engines is an epic-scale idea condensed into novella form. Even though the plot, setting and characters are handled skillfully in the short time allotted, it just seemed like parts of the novella felt rushed or skimmed over, and I believe The God Engines would have worked even better as a full-length novel.
That said, the novella as it is leaves an indelible impression on the reader. It is a hauntingly powerful and provocative tale that will have John Scalzi fans, fantasy lovers, and newcomers alike talking about The God Engines.