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Book Reviews

Science Fiction and Fantasy Twisted


The God Engines

by John Scalzi

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When one is in the presence of our particular defiled god, as I often am, it is meet and appropriate to remind the creature that it is, in fact, defiled, and a slave, and bound to obey my commands.― 

John ScalziThe God Engines


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….


Hardcover, 136 pagesPublished December 2009 by Subterranean PressOriginal TitleThe God EnginesISBN1596062800 (ISBN13: 9781596062801)Edition LanguageEnglishURL AwardsHugo Award Nominee for Best Novella (2010)

My Thoughts

It is time to whip a God,” John Scalzi wrote in this Hugo Award-nominated novella, The God Engines. The God Engines, is a lot of things. Dark and cruel, fantasy, horror, and religion all blended in a twisted story of power from a writer customarily known for his charm and humor. But this, this is Scalzi out of his usual comfort zone. There is no charm or humor in this story. This is him reaching into the darker parts of his storytelling ability and bringing forth the cruel and worm filled and serving it on a silver platter.

“Captain Ean Tephe entered the god chamber, small lacquered, filigreed chest in hand. He found blood on the deck, an acolyte spurting one and lying shivering on the other, and a god prostrate in its iron circle, its chains shortened in the circle floor…The God giggled into the iron its mouth was mashed into and flicked its tongue over red lips.”

It is time to whip a God. ― 

John ScalziThe God Engines

There is one true God in this land. One God, above all others. He is attended to by the Bishopry, much like a church of believers. This God is nameless, and all the other gods must be defiled and abased below him. So much so that their abasement, and suffering, power the Bishopry ships. The ships are fueled by faith. Because above all things, religion and belief are what give a God the highest power. Ean Tephe is the captain of the Righteous, one of the Bishopry’s ships. His job is to control the God powering his ship and cower him.

“Tephe took the whip from the case, stood, and lashed hard into the God, the slivers of iron tearing into its flesh. The God screamed and kicked as far as its chain would allow. Godblood seeped from the gash.”

But Gods are growing bold, fleet-wide. They are attacking and lashing out at their captors and are not cowering in fear as they once did. Tephe is summoned to the council and told of the true God’s plan on obtaining more faith. Faith can be found in the fires of a fresh convert.

You can see where the story is going.

Scalzi has crafted a story here that integrates faith and what religion is and how it is interpreted. Who is a god? Is a god one who has more power than another? Are humans Gods to ants? If you are looking at a deity, and consequently whipping them, what is faith then? It is an exciting thought. Maybe the “gods” are not gods, but other extraterrestrial beings, and this is a war for power, with humans as pawns. Scalzi touches on many of these in this tight novella. The plot moves at a brisk pace and keeps the reader engaged. I would have loved for this to have been written as a full novel, as backstory and dialog could be explored more. But as at stands, this is quite an engaging read. Well worth the nomination it received. It goes to show you that Scalzi is not a one-trick pony. He can write both the dark and light of fantasy.

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Where to find it?


I checked this out from the library

About the Author

John Scalzi, having declared his absolute boredom with biographies, disappeared in a puff of glitter and lilac scent.

Where to Find Them

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