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The God Engines (Playaway Adult Fiction)

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Captain Ean Tephe is a man of faith, whose allegiance to his lord and to his ship is uncontested. The Bishopry Militant knows this -- and so, when it needs a ship and crew to undertake a secret, sacred mission to a hidden land, Tephe is the captain to whom the task is given. Tephe knows from that the start that his mission will be a test of his skill as a leader of men and Captain Ean Tephe is a man of faith, whose allegiance to his lord and to his ship is uncontested. The Bishopry Militant knows this -- and so, when it needs a ship and crew to undertake a secret, sacred mission to a hidden land, Tephe is the captain to whom the task is given. Tephe knows from that the start that his mission will be a test of his skill as a leader of men and as a devout follower of his god. It s what he doesn t know that matters: to what ends his faith and his ship will ultimately be put -- and that the tests he will face will come not only from his god and the Bishopry Militant, but from another, more malevolent source entirely...


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Captain Ean Tephe is a man of faith, whose allegiance to his lord and to his ship is uncontested. The Bishopry Militant knows this -- and so, when it needs a ship and crew to undertake a secret, sacred mission to a hidden land, Tephe is the captain to whom the task is given. Tephe knows from that the start that his mission will be a test of his skill as a leader of men and Captain Ean Tephe is a man of faith, whose allegiance to his lord and to his ship is uncontested. The Bishopry Militant knows this -- and so, when it needs a ship and crew to undertake a secret, sacred mission to a hidden land, Tephe is the captain to whom the task is given. Tephe knows from that the start that his mission will be a test of his skill as a leader of men and as a devout follower of his god. It s what he doesn t know that matters: to what ends his faith and his ship will ultimately be put -- and that the tests he will face will come not only from his god and the Bishopry Militant, but from another, more malevolent source entirely...

30 review for The God Engines (Playaway Adult Fiction)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Patrick

    Holy shit, this was a good book. I've known about this book for quite some time, I've even owned a copy for years. But it wasn't until today that I actually took a crack at it. I've been enjoying novellas and short novels a lot lately. Bite sized audio books are easier on my brain when I'm trying to get serious writing done. Though this audio bookwas only 3 hours long, I was hoping it would last me a couple of days as I listened to it in bits and pieces while I cooked, puttered around the house, Holy shit, this was a good book. I've known about this book for quite some time, I've even owned a copy for years. But it wasn't until today that I actually took a crack at it. I've been enjoying novellas and short novels a lot lately. Bite sized audio books are easier on my brain when I'm trying to get serious writing done. Though this audio bookwas only 3 hours long, I was hoping it would last me a couple of days as I listened to it in bits and pieces while I cooked, puttered around the house, or exercised. No such luck. It got it hooks into me and I listen to the whole thing tonight, despite my best intentions. So... Yeah. If book 3 ends up being released a couple hours later than you'd like, you can blame John Scalzi for that.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Richard Derus

    Rating: 4.5 horrified, terrified, vindicated stars of five The Publisher Says: Captain Ean Tephe is a man of faith, whose allegiance to his lord and to his ship is uncontested. The Bishopry Militant knows this -- and so, when it needs a ship and crew to undertake a secret, sacred mission to a hidden land, Tephe is the captain to whom the task is given. Tephe knows from the start that his mission will be a test of his skill as a leader of men and as a devout follower of his god. It's what he Rating: 4.5 horrified, terrified, vindicated stars of five The Publisher Says: Captain Ean Tephe is a man of faith, whose allegiance to his lord and to his ship is uncontested. The Bishopry Militant knows this -- and so, when it needs a ship and crew to undertake a secret, sacred mission to a hidden land, Tephe is the captain to whom the task is given. Tephe knows from the start that his mission will be a test of his skill as a leader of men and as a devout follower of his god. It's what he doesn't know that matters: to what ends his faith and his ship will ultimately be put -- and that the tests he will face will come not only from his god and the Bishopry Militant, but from another, more malevolent source entirely.... My Review: The Power of God...the Power of Faith...these are concrete, actual things, not powerless mouthings, in John Scalzi's 136-page gut-punch and goolie-kick of a novella. Captain Ean Tephe, commanding the Righteous, is fresh from a stinging defeat (in his mind) that, in the view of his superiors, is a victory so signal that he's summoned to HQ and given the most astonishing order: Go to a planet of those who have not heard of Our Lord, convert them, and offer the nourishment of their worship to Our Lord in this difficult war we're waging against the gods whose brother-gods are enslaved as the star drives of the Faithful. He does. The scene that follows is so revolting, so truly disturbing, and so exactly what I believe to be the case regarding religion, that I wasn't at all sure which of my equally strong emotional responses to give pride of place to. The last words on p136 are: "Pray," he said. Excellent advice. Won't help, but it's still excellent advice. It took about three hours for this book to enthrall, fascinate, frighten, and disgust me. I'm left, here at the end of the experience, wondering what is to become of me now. How will I find a story that will help me feel clean and whole in my bruised and abused mind again? What balm can be applied to a beaten psyche? I was never the most chirpily sanguine of men, I truly always believed that humanity was made up of scum, pond scum, and scum-sucking pond scum, then below that conservatives. And now that seems the most giddily upbeat and Pollyanna-ish codswallop. Scalzi has stared unflinchingly into the black heart of reality, the place that Lovecraft was scared to go, and brought back this eyewitness account. Lift your snouts from the trough, humans! This is exactly where you're headed if you don't side-step now! How lonely John Scalzi must be, having that one eye in this kingdom of the blind. I don't remember which of the Axis of Evil boys convinced me I had to read this, but you did me a good turn: I finally know of someone who makes me look optimistic about humanity!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Dan Schwent

    "It was time to whip the god." Thus begins The God Engines by John Scalzi. Captain Tephe is ordered to humanity's homeworld, Bishop's Call, and tasked to bring the faith of Our Lord to a faithless world. But will his own fate be tested? That's about as much summary as I can give without giving away too much of the plot. The universe John Scalzi creates in The God Engines is like no others. Humanity travels the stars in ships powered by imprisoned and tortured gods, ruled by the one god that "It was time to whip the god." Thus begins The God Engines by John Scalzi. Captain Tephe is ordered to humanity's homeworld, Bishop's Call, and tasked to bring the faith of Our Lord to a faithless world. But will his own fate be tested? That's about as much summary as I can give without giving away too much of the plot. The universe John Scalzi creates in The God Engines is like no others. Humanity travels the stars in ships powered by imprisoned and tortured gods, ruled by the one god that conquered them all. While on the surface a space opera with some Lovecraftian overtones, The God Engines is really an exploration of faith. Captain Tephe is a conflicted character, the perfect lead in a story like this. His relationship with the ship's rook was well done, as was his interactions with the other crew members, especially the priest and the first mate. I hate to admit it but I was really surprised at what happened Cthicx and the shit storm that resulted. As I said before, the society presented in The God Engines is a pretty novel one and presents a lot of interesting ideas. I'd be very interested to read more stories set in this universe. The God Engines gets one of the easiest fives I've ever awarded. Once again, I'm convinced The Scalz can do no wrong.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sandi

    I really like John Scalzi's books. Although they aren't great literature, they have been reliably entertaining. So, I was delighted to find a copy of The God Engines at my public library. From the get-go, I didn't like this novella at all. At 130-odd pages, including pictures and blank pages, I should have been able to blast through it in a day--maybe two given the busy holiday season. I didn't like the tone or the setting of the novel. I thought the characters were too flat. It lacked Scalzi's I really like John Scalzi's books. Although they aren't great literature, they have been reliably entertaining. So, I was delighted to find a copy of The God Engines at my public library. From the get-go, I didn't like this novella at all. At 130-odd pages, including pictures and blank pages, I should have been able to blast through it in a day--maybe two given the busy holiday season. I didn't like the tone or the setting of the novel. I thought the characters were too flat. It lacked Scalzi's usual humor. I couldn't tell whether he was trying to make a philosophical statement about religion, or if he was just using it as a vehicle for his story. I found it to be extremely sexist, especially with the Rookery. I'm really sad that I didn't like this book because I was looking forward to reading it. Hopefully, Scalzi's next book will be a return to his usual entertaining fare.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Helen

    I love John Scalzi and this may be the best thing I ever read from him. Extremely dark and combining elements of both science fiction and fantasy, Scalzi has created a completely unique universe in which shackled gods and religious fanatics battle it out. That is, until they realize that there is something far worse than either of them waiting to devour them, quite literally. I didn't know JS could write this dark, but I hope he creates additional stories in this universe.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    6.0 stars. This story was AMAZING and has immediately jumped onto my list of "All Time Favorite" stories. For fans of John Scalzi's other work, of which I include myself, this is a significant departure in so far as this is a much darker story. The opening line of the novella really sets the tone for the whole story ("It was time to whip to god"), and I was taken in by it and read it basically in a single sitting (not tough as it is only 136 pages). I won't give a detailed synopsis as the book 6.0 stars. This story was AMAZING and has immediately jumped onto my list of "All Time Favorite" stories. For fans of John Scalzi's other work, of which I include myself, this is a significant departure in so far as this is a much darker story. The opening line of the novella really sets the tone for the whole story ("It was time to whip to god"), and I was taken in by it and read it basically in a single sitting (not tough as it is only 136 pages). I won't give a detailed synopsis as the book description and some other reviews do a good job of that. I will say that this book tackles some serious issues of belief, faith and the nature of the universe. A truly spectacular piece of fiction and I hope that Mr. Scalzi will write future stories set in this universe. Nominee: Hugo Award for Best Novella (2010) Nominee: Nebula Award for Best Novella (2010)

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ben Babcock

    The God Engines opens with what, along with the opening line of JPod, is now one of my favourite first lines: "It was time to whip the god." Immediately, John Scalzi establishes a sense of difference between our universe and the one in which this book is set. In this universe, monolatrism is the order of the day. Captain Tephe and the crew of the Righteous worship a god, conveniently called "Our Lord." Captured gods serve as engines for their starships; bound by iron, the gods warp space-time to The God Engines opens with what, along with the opening line of JPod, is now one of my favourite first lines: "It was time to whip the god." Immediately, John Scalzi establishes a sense of difference between our universe and the one in which this book is set. In this universe, monolatrism is the order of the day. Captain Tephe and the crew of the Righteous worship a god, conveniently called "Our Lord." Captured gods serve as engines for their starships; bound by iron, the gods warp space-time to deliver ships to their destinations. What a twist on religion and one's relationship with one's god! Faith quite literally empowers gods—this is not a new idea, but turning captive gods into starship engines is pretty nifty. And Scalzi uses the situation to write all sorts of interesting conversations between Tephe and the god that powers the Righteous, mostly about the nature of faith, gods, and one's devotion to one's god. The most interesting motif of The God Engines is faith. Not only does faith empower gods, but it comes in various flavours of diminished quality. Tephe's faith is the weakest, for it has been handed down to him over the generators. By contrast, "first-made faith" of new converts is the strongest. And with several gods aiming to take a bite out of His Lord, Tephe is sent to a planet untouched by gods and ignorant of the theological conflict taking place in the universe at large. The idea that converts are more fanatically devout in their belief makes sense. Theirs is a raw belief, one that inspired them to choose to worship their god. Believers who were raised (or indoctrinated) to believe, on the other hand, do it by rote. Many of them are devout, but their minds have been moulded into faithfulness not by a god, but by a parent. Considering the somewhat predictable twist that leads into a downer ending, it would be easy to label The God Engines anti-religious in nature. After all, it portrays gods as capricious creatures who essentially enslave societies. Science and engineering have been erased, replaced with faith-on-demand. It's not that Tephe and his people use gods to power starships because that is a superior form of power—it's because they know of no other way, although such ways do exist. That deception on the part of His Lord is an essential part of Tephe's crisis of faith, which ultimately demonstrates that this book isn't about religion at all, and thus isn't anti-religious. It's all about faith. Let us not conflate the two, for although religion often involves faith, faith does not always mean religion. The religious parts of the society in this book are dismal, almost dystopian. The rulers are called the Bishopry Militant, a terrible juxtaposition of two authoritarian terms. Although it does not come up per se, we get the idea that this is not the sort of society that kindly tolerates freedom of expression. Blasphemy is high on the list of forbidden acts. Obedience is the second-most prized virtue, especially from ship captains. The most-prized virtue, of course, is faith. If religion is the stern, morally-hidebound uncle who's no fun at family reunions, faith is the spunky cousin everyone loves, even though she makes everyone just a little bit uncomfortable. Faith is the more fervent sibling of confidence; they are really the same feeling, only one is reserved for special occasions. What Scalzi does is literalize what we all, internally, understand about faith, because we all have faith in something, even if we are not religious. And faith, true faith, that unconditional and utter belief, is powerful. It can capture the imagination, inspire acts of unfathomable beauty or untenable ugliness, and result in the most amazing events. We have fought wars because of faith. We went to the moon because of faith. So in that context, using faith to power a starship is not all that strange. And in the darkest hour, after Tephe has learned the awful truth, what sustains him? What gives him the ability to keep going, knowing that he and his crew are doomed? Well, super-sleuth that you are, guessed it: faith. For the sake of spoilers, I won't say faith in what. Maybe one's god, maybe one's humanity, or maybe just faith in some generic sense. But it's enough to keep Tephe going even in the face of certain destruction. Lest I mislead you in my positive discussion of the Power of Faith, let me be clear: this is not a warm-fuzzy book. Without going into detail, there is not much Happily Ever After happening here. The God Engines is about terrible revelation and unrecoverable betrayal. And maybe it could have gone differently for Tephe and the Righteous. Part of me wishes it did, of course. There is an intriguing sense of minimalism about The God Engines. As a novella, it is short, and Scalzi wastes no time in crafting a tantalizing glimpse at this world. It left me wanting more, and that frustrated me for a time. Then I realized I was being silly: books should leave you wanting more (in a good, curious way). So the more I consider it, the more I feel that a novella suits this story. Sometimes the plot is rushed. Once the Righteous arrives at the untouched planet, it takes no time at all for the story to skip to the conversion of one of its tribes. Another story, another writer, might have drawn this out, added characters and relationships, really turned this into a novel. And if I were being lazy, I could call this poor writing and call it a day, review over. But then I would be ignoring the fact that Scalzi chose to write this as a novella. That is what I mean by minimialism. He intended these elisions, and they are as integral to the book as the commentary on faith. The only place where The God Engines suffers as a result is its characterization, which is lacking. None of the characters truly stand out in my mind as three-dimensional. But as fans of the short story know, length is not a necessary condition for good characterization—but sometimes it can make poor characterization a little more adequate. Tephe, Andso, and Shalle are all fairly stock roles with fairly conventional relationships. As much as I enjoyed reading The God Engines, I keep coming back to this flaw; it is all the more glaring for everything else that is right about this book. Some books are like that: one small detail mars the rest. Some books can bear the flaw, others unravel . . . The God Engines survives, but only just. Only because, for some reason, I managed to see its potential, if not its actuality. And so even though it did not quite deliver, I still had faith.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kat Hooper

    ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature. Ean Tephe, captain of the Righteous, is a man of great faith. In fact, it’s the faith of Tephe and his crew that keeps Righteous running — it gives power to their god, enabling him to enslave the captured god which powers the spaceship. Somehow, the “defiled” god, like all the conquered gods that run the spaceships in Tephe’s land, are able to swallow light-years of space to transport their crews wherever they need to go. When Captain Tephe and his crew ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature. Ean Tephe, captain of the Righteous, is a man of great faith. In fact, it’s the faith of Tephe and his crew that keeps Righteous running — it gives power to their god, enabling him to enslave the captured god which powers the spaceship. Somehow, the “defiled” god, like all the conquered gods that run the spaceships in Tephe’s land, are able to swallow light-years of space to transport their crews wherever they need to go. When Captain Tephe and his crew are sent on a missionary journey to proselytize a new planet and their god engine starts to act up, Tephe’s suddenly in danger of losing his religion. The God Engines, which I listened to on audio (Brilliance Audio) narrated by Christopher Lane, has a tantalizing premise and some appealing characters. I liked Captain Ean Tephe, his capable first mate, and Shalle, the woman who “nurtures the faith” of the officers. The vicious and angry god who is chained to Righteous was truly frightening (Lane’s creepy voice amplified this). The plot, which is slow at the beginning, rapidly speeds up at the end (this is only 3 hours on audio) and becomes intense, scary, twisty, and surprising. Perhaps it was John Scalzi’s intention, but I never felt comfortable reading The God Engines. My first problem is that it’s closer to horror than science-fantasy. The plot is unpleasant all the way through and it lacks any of Scalzi’s well-known humor or lightness. I was tense and unsettled the whole time I was listening. I realize that this is personal problem, of course, and many readers will appreciate this unexpected darkness from John Scalzi. My second issue is that The God Engines is simply too short for what it tries to do. I enjoy reading novellas, but they tend to work better when the setting is already familiar, either because they’re set in our own world or in a world the author has explored before. This world, which is entirely new for Scalzi’s readers, was just starting to feel real and I was just settling into it by the time the story was over. Similarly, the idea of blindly worshiping a god whose character you’re unsure of is tantalizing (though not original), but the surface of this concept was merely scratched and I wasn’t given enough time to deeply consider how this would play out in this world. Likewise, the importance and pitfalls of faith were just beginning to be explored. The ending of The God Engines felt arbitrary and unsatisfying. Scalzi abandoned his characters, world, ideas, and story, just as he was getting going. It’s nice to see John Scalzi trying something new, but I can’t help but wonder if maybe he didn’t like it either.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Matt Weir

    I'm really quite disappointed with this book. I'm a big Scalzi fan. I appreciate how fun his stories are, how engaging his characters are and how brilliant his dialogue is. However, this didn't feel like a Scalzi book. To begin with, the story started off really slow (which is unlike Scalzi and especially detrimental considering its such a short read) and the dialogue sounded really false. Undeniably the story picked up and was enjoyable at one stage, but it felt like it came to late to save what I'm really quite disappointed with this book. I'm a big Scalzi fan. I appreciate how fun his stories are, how engaging his characters are and how brilliant his dialogue is. However, this didn't feel like a Scalzi book. To begin with, the story started off really slow (which is unlike Scalzi and especially detrimental considering its such a short read) and the dialogue sounded really false. Undeniably the story picked up and was enjoyable at one stage, but it felt like it came to late to save what was a disappointing read. Out of many Scalzi novels, this is the first to have let me down. We can't all be perfect.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    One of my favorite things about John Scalzi’s books is that the man is funny. Along the lines of I-barfed-a-pink-gelatinous-quivering-lung-out kind of funny, which is an incredibly hard thing to accomplish when you are dealing with only the written word. His signature mixture of humor and space opera have always made for entertaining and vastly enjoyable reads. (Especially if killing someone with your flatulence is your idea of high comedy.) But my absolute favorite John Scalzi scene is the first One of my favorite things about John Scalzi’s books is that the man is funny. Along the lines of I-barfed-a-pink-gelatinous-quivering-lung-out kind of funny, which is an incredibly hard thing to accomplish when you are dealing with only the written word. His signature mixture of humor and space opera have always made for entertaining and vastly enjoyable reads. (Especially if killing someone with your flatulence is your idea of high comedy.) But my absolute favorite John Scalzi scene is the first chapter of an Old Man’s War, where John Perry visits the grave of his wife, realizing this would be the last time he would visit. The writing is so poignant, and heartfelt, and touchingly human. There is so much soulfulness and life bursting from that scene. It’s utterly unforgettable. But it is also a scene that has been singular in nature; a high that Scalzi has never reproduced in my eyes in subsequent novels. Humor has seemingly won the day in his most recent books, and those moments of profound gravitas have slowly dwindled away, winking out faster than cupcakes at a Jenny Craig meeting. Which is disappointing, since that first chapter of an Old Man’s War showed so much potential for sci-fi greatness. If only he could re-ignite that spark once again. In The God Engines, a new limited edition novella from Subterranean Press, that’s exactly what John Scalzi has done, re-igniting that spark with an arsonist’s glee. The God Engines is unlike anything he’s done before, shockingly different, both new and completely unexpected. It’s the book Scalzi needed to write in order to mature as a writer and to take his considerable talents to the next level. It’s the book that shows he’s more than just a writer of humorous space operas; he’s also one of the best science fiction writers currently working. A vastly rich tale set in a theocratic universe, The God Engines is a modern sci-fi classic, an intriguing examination of faith and worship and godhood. Intelligent and provocative, the narrative reminds me of a classic Twilight Zone episode, well-written, multi-leveled and rich with ideas. The God Engines is the best thing yet from John Scalzi and worthy of award consideration. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Final Grade: 87 out of 100

  11. 5 out of 5

    Skylar Phelps

    3.5 stars. Really quite a complex and darker novella. I thought it was well done, some of it felt rushed.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kater Cheek

    My last book was a one star review that I recommended. This is a five star review that I'm not sure if I recommend or not. It's not a long book, more like a long short story, barely even a novella. It has a short story sensibilities; unnecessary scenes have been cut out, and the prose is quite spare. The story is one of a space-faring race who have achieved interstellar travel by using imprisoned gods to power their ships. The people themselves worship a different god, who has conquered most of My last book was a one star review that I recommended. This is a five star review that I'm not sure if I recommend or not. It's not a long book, more like a long short story, barely even a novella. It has a short story sensibilities; unnecessary scenes have been cut out, and the prose is quite spare. The story is one of a space-faring race who have achieved interstellar travel by using imprisoned gods to power their ships. The people themselves worship a different god, who has conquered most of the known universe. Their faith is a real thing, a power by which they utilize their (literally) god-given talents. It's also the power by which they bind the god that serves as their engine. Belief is so important to their society that it hearkens to the inquisition, or perhaps the McCarthy era. I'm not going to go into what happens in the plot, because I don't want to spoil it. I'm just going to warn people that it starts out dark, and gets even darker, and that it's not a pleasant view of religion. It's always hard to figure out how many stars to give something, and I don't like to give more than three, but this novella (novlette?) is one likely to start discussions with anyone who reads it.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jamie Collins

    An interesting little novella - I'd call it fantasy rather than science fiction. The story centers on the captain of a spaceship which is powered by an enslaved god, set in a universe where religious faith has literal, tangible power. Particularly intriguing was the concept of the differing potency of first-made, second-made and third-made faith. I was slightly unsatisfied by the ending. I wanted this to be longer, but then I’m not a great fan of short-format fiction.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Gertie

    What a strange one. I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I started, but I did expect a slightly more appealing main character. This story starts off with 2 stars and ends with 4 - around the 2/3 mark it gets suddenly much more interesting. The concept of using "gods" for engines is a pretty fascinating one; I think what let me down most about this book is that it could have gone in so many much more interesting and appealing directions. Would love to see another author's spin on this one.

  15. 5 out of 5

    David

    I'd leave this classified as "science fiction," but it's really science fiction/dark fantasy/horror. In this novella, starships are powered by enslaved gods, there's a slightly Lovecraftian vibe to the story, and the ending is something out of a John Carpenter movie. It's an entertaining, slightly weird page-turner, and I loved the dark fantasy/sci-fi setting right up until the ending, which I found both predictable and a bit rushed.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    More of a 2.5. Definitely not typical of Scalzi's other work I've read. I thought it was going to be SF, but it's a chilling, almost Lovecraftian fantasy with space ships. I guess he was trying to explore faith & commitment, but it really wasn't long enough for that.. Not sure it did, but it certainly had a great message about how education & information can manipulate people.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sesana

    Fascinating world building, and the entire story takes a turn about 2/3 of the way through. Great and unexpected ending.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Peter Tillman

    John Scalzi tries something new with this long novella. He calls it dark fantasy, but it's really more science-fantasy -- the action is largely aboard an FTL starship, and the setting is an interstellar religious empire. The title is literally true -- I'm treading lightly here to avoid spoilers. The empire is ruled by the Bishopry Militant, an unsavory theocracy, and the religious supernatural is at the heart of the tale. "The God Engines" is a story along the lines of Harlan Ellison's "The John Scalzi tries something new with this long novella. He calls it dark fantasy, but it's really more science-fantasy -- the action is largely aboard an FTL starship, and the setting is an interstellar religious empire. The title is literally true -- I'm treading lightly here to avoid spoilers. The empire is ruled by the Bishopry Militant, an unsavory theocracy, and the religious supernatural is at the heart of the tale. "The God Engines" is a story along the lines of Harlan Ellison's "The Deathbird," although it's less directly tied to Christianity than Ellison's classic. Scalzi does some very effective society and religion-building here. His writing is as good as ever, the tale moves along briskly, sex, violence and spaceship battles are featured. The story becomes darker with each revelatory twist, and ends up very dark and bloody indeed. Recommended, with a caveat for the easily-squicked. I'd be surprised if Scalzi doesn't revisit* this intriguing new universe. 4.4 stars. [*As of 2019, he hasn't] My 2o10 review, at one time my highest-rated review at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/review/RD22UQX...

  19. 4 out of 5

    Nikki

    The range of reviews for this story is amazing. Some people were utterly surprised, others underwhelmed and claiming to have guessed every twist and turn... For me, the story makes perfect sense and each element connects, but I was still a little surprised by where Scalzi took it. I was impressed at the ambiguity about Shalle: I saw Shalle initially as male and then as an androgyne, where most people saw Shalle as female. I really liked that. It's an interesting concept, and bravely executed -- The range of reviews for this story is amazing. Some people were utterly surprised, others underwhelmed and claiming to have guessed every twist and turn... For me, the story makes perfect sense and each element connects, but I was still a little surprised by where Scalzi took it. I was impressed at the ambiguity about Shalle: I saw Shalle initially as male and then as an androgyne, where most people saw Shalle as female. I really liked that. It's an interesting concept, and bravely executed -- it would be horribly easy to go with the urge for a predictable end, (view spoiler)[in which everyone lives and somehow everything turns out okay. I was even hoping for it, for Shalle to live, for Shalle somehow not to be wrong. (hide spoiler)] I like that we ended with ambiguity, too, that I don't think there's any confirmation which 'side' we should be on in the final conflict.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Wealhtheow

    Apparently Scalzi's first attempt at a fantasy novel. It still feels a bit sf--the characters fly in spaceships to distant worlds. But the spaceships are powered by the torture of gods. Generations ago, the One True God rose to power. Ever since, the remaining gods have been enslaved by the True God's followers to power their technology. But pockets of resistance remain... Scalzi manages to pack a great deal into 136 pages--I felt like I knew the captain and his society well, and I was interested Apparently Scalzi's first attempt at a fantasy novel. It still feels a bit sf--the characters fly in spaceships to distant worlds. But the spaceships are powered by the torture of gods. Generations ago, the One True God rose to power. Ever since, the remaining gods have been enslaved by the True God's followers to power their technology. But pockets of resistance remain... Scalzi manages to pack a great deal into 136 pages--I felt like I knew the captain and his society well, and I was interested in his odd relationship with his ship's enslaved god. I think if this book had been longer the twist at the end would have felt even more like a gut-punch, but as it was, it still left me nearly breathless. Definitely worth a read.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    3 Stars First, I am a fan of John Scalzi and I look forward to reading more of his works. Second, I am not really into short stories, and it is rare that a novella has enough to satiate me. That being said, this novella is filled with so much could have been, and would have been awesome points to it that it really found it to be wanting. Lastly, this book has some truly original horror and science fiction points and scenes. The mad god was down right scary. The world building was remarkably good 3 Stars First, I am a fan of John Scalzi and I look forward to reading more of his works. Second, I am not really into short stories, and it is rare that a novella has enough to satiate me. That being said, this novella is filled with so much could have been, and would have been awesome points to it that it really found it to be wanting.  Lastly, this book has some truly original horror and science fiction points and scenes. The mad god was down right scary. The world building was remarkably good for such a short novel. Scalzi should write another full length novel in this world. This book is still one that I can easily recommend as it is original, and a fast read.

  22. 5 out of 5

    JW

    Just how much did I hate this book? I really want to spoil it to save you from trudging through it. It's really, really bad. The writing is flat, the characters mathematically one dimensional and the story... The ending.... It's got to be some kind of Author Tract, or sourced from a bad dream. Just don't read this book. Read Old Man's War. Hell, read Agent to the Stars. Skip this awful misfire.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jakob

    Really well written and very dark. The story itself is enthralling and manages to have some Lovecraftian moments that make the goosebumps come alive on your skin. It seems to me that Scalzi is in his story trying to make some remarks about religion and clergy as corrupt as well as faith as a crutch and a hindrance to progress. If that is a correct assumption then his efforts fall fairly flat to one degree or another. One problem is that by having the gods be these real, powerful and capricious Really well written and very dark. The story itself is enthralling and manages to have some Lovecraftian moments that make the goosebumps come alive on your skin. It seems to me that Scalzi is in his story trying to make some remarks about religion and clergy as corrupt as well as faith as a crutch and a hindrance to progress. If that is a correct assumption then his efforts fall fairly flat to one degree or another. One problem is that by having the gods be these real, powerful and capricious alien beings which have dominion over the definitely real, according to the logic of the book, souls and spirits of men it seems that Scalzi is trying to have his cake and eat it too. It is hard to take seriously the message that Scalzi may, or may not, be trying to convey when he is basically using a modernized version of the Olympian gods as a template for his gods. Although it is fun to read about, it does not engender belief, especially when you consider that no historic accounts of powerful gods are ever straightforwardly about what they seem to be about. There are layers upon layers of meaning contained in pretty much all religious scripture and stories, which is why they live as long as they do. Scalzi's story and his gods on the other hand are straightforwardly what they seem to be. If you have to any degree studied religions and their spiritual interpretive framework then you'll see the cognitive dissonance between the story and its supposed meaning. I can't really say if this is how Scalzi meant the book to be read but as a symbolic tale it doesn't really score very high but as a straight-faced scifi story it is awesome. (view spoiler)[The same argument as used above can be used about the conflicting scifi and fantasy elements in the book. It is clearly stated the people in the book were once scientifically minded but that after meeting the gods left behind science. The gods using magic and people using it through the gods could be explained in a Dying Earth fashion, i.e. that the technology of the gods had progressed to such a degree as to be indistinguishable from magic. The problem again are the spiritual elements that are added to the book, these undermine the idea that the gods are merely very advanced aliens. (hide spoiler)]

  24. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Inzirillo

    Wow. Just wow. Where do you get these ideas Mr Scalzi? This book is twisted and raw. Horrible and also truthful. The morals here are in your face and also subtle. And the concepts are just mind blowing. I wish I could spend like and hour learning About Mr Scalzi's creative process. Just amazing.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mitchell

    short and weird. An interesting mix of of sf and fantasy and horror. I'd have liked it better without the fantasy and horror. 4 of 5.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    In this future world, we chain and torture gods as power sources. It's hard to like people who do that. Unsettling portrait of a world where the comforting lies that have been used to justify turning others to merely means to an end ring extra hollow.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lis Carey

    This is a real departure for Scalzi, extremely dark fantasy bordering on horror. Ean Tephe is captain of the Righteous, a space-faring ship whose "engine" is a defeated and imprisoned god. Tephe's own god is the powerful figure who conquered all the lesser gods who now serve as engines in his fleet. That Lord God is sustained, literally fed by the faith of his followers--and something is going wrong. The defeated gods are getting restless, attempting to rebel, and threatening the faith of the This is a real departure for Scalzi, extremely dark fantasy bordering on horror. Ean Tephe is captain of the Righteous, a space-faring ship whose "engine" is a defeated and imprisoned god. Tephe's own god is the powerful figure who conquered all the lesser gods who now serve as engines in his fleet. That Lord God is sustained, literally fed by the faith of his followers--and something is going wrong. The defeated gods are getting restless, attempting to rebel, and threatening the faith of the Lord God's followers. But he has a plan... Tephe is genuinely a man of strong faith, and a good, responsible captain of his ship, loyal to his crew as well as his God. What happens when they come into conflict? This novella goes to some very dark places, and Scalzi's usual humor and light touch, which would be inappropriate here, are completely absent. Tephe is a well-developed character, but while his relationship with the rook Shalle is developed, Shalle is not quite so well developed. Also, sorry, the thing where you never, ever identify the gender of a particular character has been done, many times before, including at least once by Scalzi. It's no longer a particularly clever trick, and I don't think it added anything here. While there are some interesting concepts here, and Scalzi never writes badly, there just isn't enough development and background here, and while I do somewhat care about Tephe and his friends, I could not possibly care less about what happens to their society--and that matters, if we're to care what happens in this story. It isn't even, as some have argued, an interesting discussion of religion, because what exists in Tephe's society has little to do with what we call faith and religion in our own world. Tephe's god is all to real and physical. Believing in him is rather like believing in the baseball that just hit you in the head; no faith is involved. Very likely I'm being a bit harsh. As I said, I don't like horror, and I wouldn't have read this if it weren't by John Scalzi. I have long since learned that starting a book does not create an obligation to finish it. Nevertheless, not recommended. I bought this book.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Joel

    Scalzi is one of the premiere sci-fi writers working today. And for good reason - his books are light, easy-to-read, clever, and full of believable, interesting characters. Having said that, this book didn’t quite work for me. It was recognizably Scalzi and the characters, most notably the lead, Ephe, were enjoyable to read about. The premise, a world where faith is discernible and its use wields tangible results, is thought provoking. But. I found the action a little thin, and the society built Scalzi is one of the premiere sci-fi writers working today. And for good reason - his books are light, easy-to-read, clever, and full of believable, interesting characters. Having said that, this book didn’t quite work for me. It was recognizably Scalzi and the characters, most notably the lead, Ephe, were enjoyable to read about. The premise, a world where faith is discernible and its use wields tangible results, is thought provoking. But. I found the action a little thin, and the society built around tangible faith a little too cliche in its military versus clergy conflicts. Likewise, Scalzi’s refusal to assign a gender to the Rooks, a kind of counselor being, while laudable, is a little heavy-handed; the lack of pronouns becomes a little tiresome. Most importantly though, I think my own expectations got in the way. The novelette has been consistently referred to as a “dark story” and I didn’t find it to be one. Darker, sure, but not really dark. As such, I was a bit disappointed. Final verdict - it’s a good story and well-written. It’s just not my favorite Scalzi story.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Cathleen

    A dark, unpleasant commentary on religion and faith. If the critiques had been presented with less agenda and more story, they may have carried more power. I'm not opposed to being made uncomfortable in my reading, but the arm's-length characters gave no agency to the theme. That, and I'm completely over the trope of including female characters on a crew only to 'service' the men, and it doesn't solve the problem (nor is it original) to have them be elevated or deemed mystical. Casting one of A dark, unpleasant commentary on religion and faith. If the critiques had been presented with less agenda and more story, they may have carried more power. I'm not opposed to being made uncomfortable in my reading, but the arm's-length characters gave no agency to the theme. That, and I'm completely over the trope of including female characters on a crew only to 'service' the men, and it doesn't solve the problem (nor is it original) to have them be elevated or deemed mystical. Casting one of those women as the sole comfort and intellectual equal for the captain, offering insight and perspective even as she offers pleasure, is rather a tired choice as well. Thought-provoking, but undercooked.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Rob

    ...The idea behind The God Engines is intriguing but in the end the novella didn't work for me. Parts could certainly have used a bit more subtlety and the story as a whole could have done with some more words to mature. The main character never really convinced me. I guess I'm not surprised that it didn't win those awards it was nominated for. I understand it is a bit of a departure from Scalzi's other works, which tend to be science fiction of the military kind. Perhaps one of those would work ...The idea behind The God Engines is intriguing but in the end the novella didn't work for me. Parts could certainly have used a bit more subtlety and the story as a whole could have done with some more words to mature. The main character never really convinced me. I guess I'm not surprised that it didn't win those awards it was nominated for. I understand it is a bit of a departure from Scalzi's other works, which tend to be science fiction of the military kind. Perhaps one of those would work better for me. Full Random Comments review

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