Friday, 1 March 2013
The God Engines by John Scalzi – reviewed by Stephen Theaker
Although this is not a book that quite explains the author’s stellar reputation (the same could be said for the individual works of many science fiction greats; it’s a genre where great reputations are often built on consistently good bodies of work), I enjoyed it, especially the depiction of Captain Tephe and first mate Neal Forn, good men caught in a bad system. They are like children taught that believing in god is enough to make them virtuous, here tested to their limits by revelation. The gods of the book are interesting, each of them different: Tephe’s ship is powered by a Loki-esque trickster, while others are dignified, quiet, grovelling, obsequious. Those mentions encourage the reader’s imagination to wander past the book’s few pages to imagine what else is going on in this universe. The mixture of religion and space war makes it strongly reminiscent of Warhammer 40,000, while there are shades of Firefly in the sexual healing offered by the on-board Rookery and the Captain’s feelings for his head rook, but such comparisons are almost forgotten as the book plays its trump cards: the brilliant first line is matched by a climactic succession of memorable and surprising scenes, leading to a horrific and emotional conclusion.