The God Engines

April 25, 2017 at 5:00 pm (Reads) (, , , )

enginesThe God Engines by John Scalzi


So, The God Engines is as far away from the humorous vignettes of Miniatures as you can get. “Well, duh” I hear some of you saying, but understand, I read this novella right after finishing Miniatures, and I was shocked at how different they are. I’m shocked at how different this is from pretty much anything Scalzi has written, which might be why I didn’t like it all that much.

In the distant future, spaceships are powered by gods, imprisoned in the bowels of the ships, chained and tortured to force them to do the bidding of the captains. The reason they’re forced to do this is because decades before, the gods battled, and the one who won imprisoned the rest. As a result, the captains and crew are people of faith, so when they’re confronted with a truth that goes counter to what they believe, that faith is shaken.

The premise is interesting enough, especially considering how Scalzi uses the story to talk about the power and limitations of faith, but it was so at odds with what I was expecting that I felt disappointed in it. I don’t see Scalzi’s fiction as light, but it’s never been as dark and nihilistic as this. It didn’t help that he created a class of women on the ship whose sole purpose was to pleasure the men, either. I know Scalzi is progressive, and he attempted to give the women more importance by making them revered among the crew and the faith, but it felt a little cliched and even derivative, especially Inara on Firefly.

The God Engines isn’t bad, but it’s not up to par with Scalzi’s other fiction. Folks familiar with Scalzi just through Old Man’s War might be surprised by it, but hardcore fans would likely get the most out of this story. I’d recommend it to fans of dark fiction in general, too, but the casual reader should probably skip it.

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