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The God Engines by John Scalzi

The God Engines (edition 2009)

by John Scalzi

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410None25,893 (3.5)29
Title:The God Engines
Authors:John Scalzi
Info:Subterranean (2009), Edition: Trade Hardcover, Hardcover, 136 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Tags:Sci-fi, Fantasy, Horror, Religion, Fiction

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The God Engines by John Scalzi

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ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

Ean Tephe, captain of the Righteous, is a man of great faith. In fact, it’s the faith of Tephe and his crew that keeps Righteous running — it gives power to their god, enabling him to enslave the captured god which powers the spaceship. Somehow, the “defiled” god, like all the conquered gods that run the spaceships in Tephe’s land, are able to swallow light-years of space to transport their crews wherever they need to go. When Captain Tephe and his crew are sent on a missionary journey to proselytize a new planet and their god engine starts to act up, Tephe’s suddenly in danger of losing his religion.

The God Engines, which I listened to on audio (Brilliance Audio) narrated by Christopher Lane, has a tantalizing premise and some appealing characters. I liked Captain Ean Tephe, his capable first mate, and Shalle, the woman who “nurtures the faith” of the officers. The vicious and angry god who is chained to Righteous was truly frightening (Lane’s creepy voice amplified this). The plot, which is slow at the beginning, rapidly speeds up at the end (this is only 3 hours on audio) and becomes intense, scary, twisty, and surprising.

Perhaps it was John Scalzi’s intention, but I never felt comfortable reading The God Engines. My first problem is that it’s closer to horror than science-fantasy. The plot is unpleasant all the way through and it lacks any of Scalzi’s well-known humor or lightness. I was tense and unsettled the whole time I was listening. I realize that this is personal problem, of course, and many readers will appreciate this unexpected darkness from John Scalzi.

My second issue is that The God Engines is simply too short for what it tries to do. I enjoy reading novellas, but they tend to work better when the setting is already familiar, either because they’re set in our own world or in a world the author has explored before. This world, which is entirely new for Scalzi’s readers, was just starting to feel real and I was just settling into it by the time the story was over. Similarly, the idea of blindly worshiping a god whose character you’re unsure of is tantalizing (though not original), but the surface of this concept was merely scratched and I wasn’t given enough time to deeply consider how this would play out in this world. Likewise, the importance and pitfalls of faith were just beginning to be explored.

The ending of The God Engines felt arbitrary and unsatisfying. Scalzi abandoned his characters, world, ideas, and story, just as he was getting going. It’s nice to see John Scalzi trying something new, but I can’t help but wonder if maybe he didn’t like it either. ( )
  Kat_Hooper | Apr 6, 2014 |
Too short. ( )
  Mihai.Buduleanu | Mar 2, 2014 |
Simple review... I found it pretty odd at first. I didn't know what was going on. By the end it started to make sense.

Its really nothing like scalzi's normal writing. Its very serious. Kinda dark. Very short. ( )
  halkeye | Feb 6, 2014 |
This seems to be Scalzi's first try with fantasy. Dark fantasy. But it still has plenty of space action. It reminded me of the Old Man's War trilogy with the contrast turned way down and added religion. But it's a hella awesome combination - space opera with "mythological religion" - two great tastes that taste great together.

But I gotta air one beef. And I didn't realize this until I was doing my fun thing where I look up trivia/info about the story. I saw this review that called attention to one component -- the established harem on the ship designed to give the crew "release". That's all fine and dandy -- not uncommon practice for this level of cultishness -- until Scalzi points out he never assigned any pronouns to the prostitutes. No physical gender characteristics or anything that could define as this, that, or the other.

This is creepy. It's clever, but it's creepy. And I'm not sure how I feel about it. On one hand, it's a neat writer trick, one that I didn't see coming. I guess it's a technique to let the reader fill in the blanks with what he/she wants to. Which is the sign of a good writer. On the other hand, now that I know that the prostitute could have been a girl or a guy, I feel icky. All I can do is imagine him as a guy. Maybe it's my instinctive homophobia. Maybe in my mind, if the character has no gender, it's potentially both -- a hermaphrodite or someone like Pat.

I also feel betrayed by the author, that he fooled me. Maybe it's that I know how the trick is done. Maybe it's that I feel, as a writer, omitting information for the sole purpose of messing with the reader is not cool. ( )
  theWallflower | Jan 20, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Scalziprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cong, VincentIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Doselle Young
And gratefully acknowledging the efforts of
Bill Schafer, Yanni Kuznia, Tim Holt, Gail Cross,
Vincent Chong, and Cherie Priest
First words
It was time to whip the god.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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A novella of dark fantasy.
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Devoted to the Bishopry Militant and to his crew, ship captain Ean Tephe is given a secret mission to a hidden land.

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