The God Engines
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The God Engines

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3.53 of 5 stars 3.53  ·  rating details  ·  2,902 ratings  ·  395 reviews
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...more
Hardcover, 400 signed numbered copies, 136 pages
Published December 2009 by Subterranean Press
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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 conque...more
Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
Jan 20, 2012 Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Jude!
Recommended to Richard Reviles Censorship by: Schwent and/or Sullivan
Rating: 4.5 horrified, terrified, vindicated stars of five

The Book Report: 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...more
Helen
May 06, 2012 Helen rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: scifi
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.
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...more
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 d...more
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 ar...more
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...more
Paul Stotts
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...more
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 t...more
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 a...more
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 -- i...more
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...more
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 f...more
Jamie
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.
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.
Joel Neff
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 a...more
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...more
Lightreads
A science-fantasy novella about spaceships powered by gods, who are in turn powered by the crew’s faith. I feel utterly neutral about this – it was an interesting idea executed competently, and complete with follow through, but the circuit never really closed. I understand this is the Scalzi curse: writing which is creative and active, but still somehow inert. Fundamentally shallow. And the trouble with shallow is it has to be my shallow, my vaguely embarrassing id fixations and narrative kinks....more
Joel Pearson
A quick but well developed novella. The subject matter was interesting, though narrative time is spent wandering a bit too much, and the moral dilemmas feel a bit rehashed. Not Scalzi's best work but still a decent read. Very nice Sub Press package though, high quality book with an attractive cover and dust jacket.
Natalie
This is no Flying Spaghetti Monster story. If you've ever caught yourself wondering whether piety creates faith? Whether faith can redeem regardless of where it is placed? Then this is a story for you that holds nothing back.

My friend Charlie posted this quote by Bertrand Russell:
"What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the will to find out, which is the exact opposite. Does this notion inspire you?

Even if it doesn't there is plenty more to enjoy in this unique novella.

Though not the c...more
Mike
First Line: It was time to whip the god.

I am somewhat ashamed to admit that, despite being something a genre fanatic, that this is the first John Scalzi book I’ve read. I’ve always had every intention to read Old Man’s War but that intent has never manifested itself into action; this is a fact I’m going to have to remedy. The God Engines is a horror/fantasy novella that happens to take place in space; mostly. Our protagonist, Ean Tephe, captains a spaceship whose main means of FTL propulsion jus...more
Jason Golomb
"The God Engines" is dark, heavy, and richly textured beneath a gauze of foreboding. John Scalzi's novella is a severe departure from the tone and wit of his popular "Old Man's War" series. But it's equally as awesome.

The title is quite literal. Superhuman god-like beings are the engines that drive human interstellar travel. While they have the power to move humans and ships across enormous amounts of space, their powers are much more vast. The story moves at a rapid pace, and the characters are...more
James Williams
The God Engines

I knew this would be dark fantasy...but jiminy. Dark almost feels like the wrong word. Maybe "harsh fantasy" would be a more appropriate descriptor. Because it's certainly that. Some of the sequences were really tough to read (or, in my case, listen to): violent torture, grisly human sacrifice, and an ending that is most assuredly not a happy one all combine to make this a rather disturbing tale.

Which isn't to say that it's bad. It's not. Not at all. The world is imaginative and...more
Brad Wheeler
It's kind of funny...most of Scalzi's books on Goodreads have amazing reviews, and I think they're just okay. This book (or novella, really) has only okay reviews, but I really enjoyed it. It has kind of a Warhammer 40K thing going on, where the power of humanity's space empire is derived entirely from gods, either Our Lord, in the case of the empire as a whole, or the captive gods in the case of individual ships.

The notion of enslaved gods being the power source for military vessels sounds a lo...more
Brendan
Scalzi is an author that I usually enjoy, and I was not disappointed by this book. It's a short read, but remains interesting throughout. What's more, it's different in that it doesn't follow the usual narrative conventions, and the setting is quite unique as well. I like things that are different, so this made me enjoy it even more.

Throughout the story, there are hints and overtones of wrongness. This is on top of the vague Lovecraftian vibe that the setting creates. There aren't necessarily an...more
Ellie
The God Engines is a short novella with a pretty exceptional premise. It's about a space-faring theocracy that is powered by faith--their gifts and powers are given to them by Their Lord, and their ships are powered by subjugated gods, who are forced to use their abilities to cross the vast expanses of space.

I was... hesitant about this at first. The concept is fantastic, but the execution felt sparse and not particularly engaging. Also, the 2nd paragraph seems to be missing a word, which is ne...more
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 Lo...more
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.
Charlie
I love dark and gritty. And I love John Scalzi doing dark and gritty. So this novella has jumped right into being one of my favourite stories even though (or maybe because) it deals with heavy religious topics. In fact, it doesn’t even hide the fact that it deals with religion. It’s right there in the title.

Without giving too much away, this is a story that focuses on the Captain of a starship which has a god for an engine (hence the title) and his faith in his Lord, which is one god of many, wh...more
Luis Gallardo
I'm really ambivalent towards this novella. I really enjoyed the setting, loved the concept of using "defiled" gods instead of technology, and that this is done for the greater glory of the god that defeated the defiled ones, who, perhaps to differentiate him from the rest, is referred to as The Lord. Loved the ritualistic nature of this society and also loved the very, very dark tone. This is definitely not a happy story, and I like that.

I would have loved for this story to be longer, or even f...more
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4763
John Scalzi, having declared his absolute boredom with biographies, disappeared in a puff of glitter and lilac scent.

(If you want to contact John, using the mail function here is a really bad way to do it. Go to his site and use the contact information you find there.)
More about John Scalzi...
Old Man's War (Old Man's War, #1) Redshirts The Ghost Brigades (Old Man's War, #2) The Last Colony (Old Man's War #3) Fuzzy Nation

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