Shiny Shelf

The God Engines by John Scalzi

By Julio Angel Ortiz on 08 March 2010

WARNING! Contains spoilers!

RThe God Engineseading ‘The God Engines’ was an exercise in frustration. With every passing page, with every concept that author John Scalzi presented to the reader, a growing sense of unease festered.

By the time you read the final page of the novella, the permeation of dread that had escalated throughout the novel transmutes into something more horrifying. Because within the cardboard covers and on the scattered ink interlacing the 137 or so pages that form the border between Scalzi’s imagination and you is something called ‘audacity’. This audacity writhes within the novella, in its twists on religion, science, fantasy, and even love. It is this audacity that connects to your gut with a blow that you paradoxically know is coming and yet are completely incapable of escaping.

‘The God Engines’ is audacious, because it is simply a brilliant piece of writing. It is frustrating because, as a writer, one reads this piece and begins to doubt if you can ever produce something approaching the breadth that Scalzi has. The resulting unease and horror at how stale a lot of other fiction can look compared to this only cements ones desire to read more and find another piece of writing as good or better.

‘The God Engines’ was nominated for a Nebula award, and with good reason. In it, Scalzi takes familiar concept from both fantasy and science fiction and does more than mash them together; with a fine needle and thread, he interweaves them into a narrative that is completely fresh. He believably creates a world where a theocracy spans stars, ships traveling across the gulf of space in ships powered by gods, and Our Lord is powered by the faith of his flock.

But as you continue on the journey through ‘The God Engine’ and its engrossing tale, assumptions will be challenged, perceptions flayed, and a few stunning revelations.

Aside from Scalzi’s prose, which is sharp and elegant, the amount of detail he provides in the novella is impressive. In just 137 pages, Scalzi provides a fascinating framework for an entire new series, if he so desired. ‘The God Engines’ works perfectly as a standalone piece, and certainly does not need any sequel, but Scalzi provides a rich canvas that he could easily return to later and flesh out further.

From the history of this world / theocracy, to the way the ships and gods function, to what future awaits in the aftermath of ‘The God Engines’, the novella reads like a much longer work, and this is perhaps the most impressive feat by Scalzi.

If you are a fan of quality fiction, then you should, without fail, pick this up. ‘The God Engines’ is unique enough that it does not easily fit into one category, and its length will not require a significant amount of time to invest in and regret should you wind up not liking it. However, you owe it to yourself to try; ‘The God Engines’ is some of the new best fiction you can read.

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By Julio Angel Ortiz

Julio Angel Ortiz maintains his collection of curiosities at You can also Like him on Facebook as well and check out his latest writing projects.

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