Review: The God Engines

Length: 136 pages

Published: 2009

Available Where: 3.84 USD on Amazon (eBook)

Format I read: eBook on the Kindle app on my Nexus 5.

The God Engines, written by John Scalzi, is a fascinating science fantasy novella. I’m a bit late to the game in reviewing it, but I was searching my brain for ideas for my first post here when I started reading. As I engaged with Scalzi’s writing, I began to realise that I’d like to express my thoughts on it. And so here we are!

The universe in which the book is set is unique and very interesting. In it, powerful beings known as ‘gods’ are used to power spacecraft. The theocratic society of the novel is zealously religious, worshipping one such god. The narrative plays well to the setting’s strengths, revealing just enough at a time to keep you intrigued while never overloading you with information. For me to reveal much more would be to weaken the story Scalzi has so skilfully crafted. The God Engines provides something of an unsubtle commentary on organised religion. Not that it has to be subtle, as Scalzi makes his point without getting in the way of the story.

I imagine that Scalzi began writing this book with a question in his mind: What would happen if far-future humanity encountered powerful beings that are powerful enough to be esteemed as gods? This little piece of speculation seems to be at the core of this work. He then takes us to the logical conclusion within his universe’s rules. Whether or not that was his process, it’s how it looks from the outside, and it resulted in a damn enjoyable read.

The writing is engaging and fun to read, if a bit humourless. But it makes up for its lack of humour with its effortless propulsion of the story. The twists and turns, although logical explorations of the universe, are surprising and satisfying, as is the ending. Scalzi deftly combines science fiction imagery (space, planets, faster-than-light travel, spacecraft) with the fantasy and religiously-toned themes of summonings and conversions. The novella is short, as novellas are wont to be. I started reading it in the afternoon and finished it that evening, driven to see it through, and I think most people will want to finish it in one or two sittings.

I acquired The God Engines as part of the Humble eBook Bundle 3. (as a side note, I have never regretted the purchase of a Humble eBook Bundle, which provide DRM-free copies of a selection of books at any price you choose. They come around irregularly and not particularly often, since Humble Bundle is primarily a video game thing, but the quality of every book I’ve read from one has been very high. So watch this space.)

The God Engines was awarded the Hugo Award for Best Novella back in 2009. I recommend it highly, as an intriguing piece of speculative fiction. Go forth and consume it!

The short version: A short, satisfying, self-contained science fantasy novella set in an original and interesting universe. Highly recommended.

P.S.: This is the first review I’ve ever put out there! I’m hoping that people won’t be too scathing in their reviews of my review, but I’m always open to feedback, so let loose.