My apologies for the brevity of this post, I’m writing with an odd tremor in my left hand and that’s throwing me off. Anyway…
If you’ve read my previous reviews of Scalzi‘s work, you’re already familiar with how much I love it. There’s something about his style that I find captivating, perhaps unreasonably so.
The God Engines is no exception to my love for Scalzi’s writing. It features space travel powered by faith and subjugated gods, and eschews many of the “upbeat” qualities (for lack of a better word) that I’ve come to recognize in Scalzi’s other pieces. It’s short, sweet, and ultimately horrifying, and I would happily recommend it to anyone who would like to read about holy war in space. Having just written that, yes, the setting does feel a little like Warhammer 40k, but not quite in the same grandiose grim-dark fashion for which 40k is pilloried. I don’t want to say any more that might accidentally spoil sections of the story for the especially perceptive, I’ve already had to rewrite this bit several times to cull possible references to spoiler material.
Also, well done Scalzi for writing an entirely genderless character. I’m not sure I understand how they fit into the larger scheme of things that you devised for this setting, but they felt wonderfully human in a way that some might have ignored. And while I loved the appropriate ending of the story, I was sad that it meant that I wouldn’t get to learn more about the world that encompassed all these wonderful and terrible things. I suppose that means you hit the perfect length for the piece.
I really liked the fact that no character felt like they were entirely “good.” Some were certainly more sympathetic than others, but mostly people seemed very human: they wanted, they feared, and they cared (or didn’t) in ways that pulled me into the piece. It never felt like we went very deep with any of them, perhaps due to space restrictions, but I got enough of a sense of them to feel connected before the end of the book.
Would I recommend this book? Yes, definitely. It’s short, it’s an easy read (I went through it in one sitting), and it’s a lovely look at a frightening concept. It’s a quick piece of horror writing done well.
p.s. Oh, and here’s Scalzi’s favorite negative review of The God Engines. It’s pretty good.