Saturday, October 6, 2012

Book review: "The God Engines" by John Scalzi

I've been hearing lots of good things about John Scalzi for some time now, but I haven't read anything by him yet. I know his is famous for over Internet for his opinions and blog, and that he wrote mostly SF. So when I decided to occasionally buy SF, I added one of his books, "The God Engines", on my Amazon wish list. I have some plans for my reading this fall and winter, which I will announce in one of my next posts, so I decided to read something stand-alone last week and I picked this.

I've been surprised how "The God Engines" is similar to "The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms" (which I read not so long ago) in premise. In both books we have gods who are chained by one other god and forced to serve humans as tools and weapons. Here, gods are literally chained, in hulls of space-ships, and used are their primary source of power. As long as the crew maintains its faith, they have nothing to fear and the god can be punished into submission. But when Captain Tephe and his crew is sent on a secret mission, they will find their faith in question, and who can then say what will happen next...

My second surprise was the shortness of this book: with 136 pages this is only a novella. But it is my own fault for not reading more about what I was buying. I am more attracted to longer books, and I was able to finish this book in two days, reading only few hours each.

But the book is pretty good and I can see why Scalzi is famous. It is a type of novellas that I used to read in collection that were published few years ago in Croatia, gathering a lot of older SF hits (Clarke, Haldeman, Hamilton...). The setting is very imaginative, and although we don't see much of it, looks pretty solid. It has a curios mix of high technology and religious dominance (something like in later books of "Hyperion Cantos" by Dan Simmons). The story is also very good, but I was delighted by the ending: I really didn't see it coming.

On the other hand, I am wishing it had a bit more meat, because the last part feels a bit rushed.

"The God Engines" is a very good novella and I would recommend it to everyone, SF fan or not. But I wouldn't recommend buying it: borrow it or buy it in some larger collection.

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