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Engine Summer (S.F. Masterworks) by John…
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Engine Summer (S.F. Masterworks) (1979)

by John Crowley (Author)

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5421030,093 (4.05)42
In the drowsy tranquility of Little Belaire, the Truthful Speakers lead lives of peaceful self-sufficiency ignoring the depopulated wilderness beyond their narrow borders. It is a society untouched by pain or violence and the self-destroying 'Angels' of the past are barely remembered. But when Rush That Speaks leaves his home on a pilgrimage of self-enlightenment, he finds a landscape haunted by myths and memories. The overgrown ruins reflect a world outside that is stranger than his people ever dreamed ...… (more)
Member:Angela.M.Otwell
Title:Engine Summer (S.F. Masterworks)
Authors:John Crowley (Author)
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Engine Summer by John Crowley (1979)

  1. 00
    Always Coming Home by Ursula K. Le Guin (fugitive)
    fugitive: Another book about a post apocalyptic civilization which pays particular attention to the details of art, language, culture, religion, etc.
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» See also 42 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
I almost want to go back and re-read this one immediately because there are a lot of revelations at the end that completely change how you understand the rest of the book. This book is going to haunt me for a long time.

It is set in a post-apocalyptic future, where some disaster has wiped out most of humanity. The story is narrated by Rush That Speaks in his old age, being interviewed about his youth. He grew up in a communal society, where people struggle to understand the lives of the humans who came before, who they call Angels. They still have some discarded Angel technology and artifacts, which they revere but do not understand (one character spends most of his life in a quest to understand "crostic words"). The human society was clearly far more advanced than ours, and there are elements of magic too - the people don't have to grow food, but can survive by smoking stuff they harvest from weird trees that were left by aliens.

As a teenager, Rush That Speaks goes on a quest, hoping to become a Saint. In his travels he learns different ways of understanding the world: in his native culture, he was a truthspeaker. He encounters other people who see the world in terms of dark and light instead of truth. He encounters scavengers who see the world in utilitarian terms. All along, he is trying to understand the world, and trying to form a relationship with Once a Day, a girl he played with as a child. His pursuit of her is part of his quest to understand the world.

All along, the reader gets more and more hints about how the world came to be how it is. It takes some sleuthing to piece them all together, and I'm sure I missed a lot of it along the way because I couldn't see how it was relevant.

The book can be mysterious and confusing, and sometimes as a reader you feel a bit unmoored and it's hard to follow what's happening, but it's still compelling. Rush That Speaks and his fellow people have a childlike wonder and innocence that makes the novel sparkle, even in the dark parts.

It all comes into sharp focus at the end, so if you're feeling lost, stick with it because it does all eventually make sense.

I love John Crowley's books. With this one, just like all of his others, I feel like I'm not quite smart enough to totally appreciate everything he's doing, and I might need two or three readings to fully appreciate it, but it's well worth two or three readings. ( )
  Gwendydd | Mar 22, 2020 |
A fascinating read. ( )
  ralphpalm | Nov 11, 2019 |
All of Crowley's books are worth reading - though I have to say I prefer some of his others to this one. This is a very dark and moody take on the classic end-of-the-world tale. Poignant and compelling, Crowley's characters break through whereas some of the rest of us still hide out in our comfortable worlds. ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
A good early novel from a writer who was clearly just discovering his skills. The novel is not perfect, but its strengths are always enough to pull the reader along to the next bend in the road. These strengths include an engaging protagonist with enough dark corners to keep a reader interested, an enduring infatuation with so little justification that it remains plausible, and a world seen only through the eyes of one character, and not developed past his gaze.

Not a perfect novel indeed, but in an era where authors seem to think their readers are buying on page count it's nice to see a novel with a sense of restraint and purpose. This is not a guidebook to some imaginary land, it's a simple story with few nice twists and a well-made turn a the end.

Quite a pleasant read - and you can't ask for more than that, really. ( )
  kiparsky | Jul 10, 2014 |
Still the speculative fiction the novel I love the most. I re-read it every few years and I never tire of it, and never will, I think. Like the crystal that records the tale, it has many facets, impossible to appreciate all at once, or in a single reading. Crowley's writing, here as in Little, Big, is flawless. But it's his particular vision of how the world is transformed and what that says about being human that I fell and remain in love with. If you don't share a sense of longing for its poignant and melancholy beauty and a wonder at the aliveness of that vision, this book won't be for you. ( )
  CSRodgers | May 3, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Crowleyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Gilbert, YvonneCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Malczynski, ElizabethCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
望, 大森Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In the drowsy tranquility of Little Belaire, the Truthful Speakers lead lives of peaceful self-sufficiency ignoring the depopulated wilderness beyond their narrow borders. It is a society untouched by pain or violence and the self-destroying 'Angels' of the past are barely remembered. But when Rush That Speaks leaves his home on a pilgrimage of self-enlightenment, he finds a landscape haunted by myths and memories. The overgrown ruins reflect a world outside that is stranger than his people ever dreamed
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