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Engine Summer

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  1,689 ratings  ·  163 reviews
Born into the community of Truthful Speakers one thousand years after the Storm, he was raised on stories of the old days -- a world filled with saints, a world in which all things were possible, a world which finally destroyed itself. In love with a beautiful woman, Rush journeys far and learns much. Taken into the society of Dr. Boots's List, attached to the old mysterie ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 209 pages
Published March 1980 by Bantam (first published 1979)
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Jimbo So this question was posted some time ago, but it intrigued me. When I (re)started the book, I assumed "Belaire" was Bel Air, California, but the refe…moreSo this question was posted some time ago, but it intrigued me. When I (re)started the book, I assumed "Belaire" was Bel Air, California, but the references to the cold of winter and Clevelen's being to the west dispelled that. At a guess, I think this may refer to Bellaire, Ohio, which is across the Ohio River from Wheeling, West Virginia. The B&O Railroad Viaduct there may be the bridge that Rush and his father crossed near the beginning of the book. Maybe.(less)

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Mark Lawrence
May 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
A highly unusual book, especially in the genre. It's easy to tell you some of the things this book wasn't (for me). It wasn't exciting or compelling. It wasn't emotionally engaging.

So what was it that dragged four stars from my tightly clutched fist?

Much of the book reads like a minute dissection of an LSD trip minus the visuals. And that's not immediately a recommendation either...

What made 'Engine Summer' for me was the gentle literary beauty of the thing. That combined with the imagination a
Fey, muted, beautiful. The story of Rush-that-speaks is a bildungsroman that will haunt you long after you have read the last page. The story follows the charming and inquisitive Rush as he grows up in his enclave of 'True Speakers', one of the few groups of humanity left after an apocalypse has destroyed most of civilization. It then follows him as he ventures out into the world to see what strangeness it may offer and in the hopes of finding his lost love.

Don't expect to find the mutant zombie
else fine
There are some books that are bigger on the inside than on the outside. They may be small, but are so densely layered that they feel like they're opening onto infinite space, and when you finish reading you're dazed, like you've woken up from a vivid dream to find your waking life transformed.
Engine Summer is such a book, a deceptively slim novella set in a far-future world, which is at once a picaresque tale of love and adventure, and a dreamily gorgeous story about the nature of time, identit
Jul 01, 2009 rated it liked it
In which industrial civilization collapsed some unspecified number of centuries ago in an event known as "the Storm," leaving a variety of different societies that seem to revolve around communion with nature (with the notable exception of the "avvengers" who scrounge about in modernity's leftovers) and non-violence and communalism. The parts of the story that focused on this were riveting. The question of how our descendants would look back at our lifestyle after some sort of epic catastrophe i ...more
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Jun 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012

My usual word associations for science fiction, especially regarding prose, are dry, factual, impersonal, straightforward. John Crowley turns these assumptions of mine on their head, offering a text that excells in the whimsical, lyrical, mysterious, introspective. I find the choice of style appropriate, as the novel deals with a post-apocalyptic Earth - a popular setting, usually dealing with the immediate aftermath of the catastrophic events leading to the death of civilization as we know it.
Mar 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Could it be that I'm just a little bit in love with John Crowley's writing? Well … most probably I am.

As with everything else by him that I've read so far: This book isn't for everyone. But I guess folks who got discouraged by the slowliness of his famous novel "Little, Big", but nevertheless enjoyed his poetic style should go for "Engine Summer". Here is much more going on in less than half the amount of pages and it still possess the same dreamlike quality that marks "Little, Big".

The story ta
Terry Pearce
Mar 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sci-fi
Of course it's lovely to find that something held up as amazing, like say Infinite Jest or Catch-22, is actually amazing, but there's something extra wonderful about finding a book quite randomly, that it seems nobody ever heard of, that is in that same bracket. I did that with The Red Tent (through a recommendation from a friend), and now I've done it with this book, which I picked up for £2.99 quite randomly at a little bookshop local to my wife's workplace.

This is proper old 70s scifi, and am
May 11, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf-masterworks, sf
Sometimes stories are hard work but are rewarding in the end when it all comes together and makes it worth while. This book is certainly a lot of hard work but I'm not sure the reward at the end is quite enough to make it all worth while.

When I say that it was a lot of hard work, there were times when the reading was pleasant and engaging but there was far too much couched in impenetrable phraseology, whole chapters that seemed all about imagery and metaphor. The narrative was for large parts of
Apr 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: orgasmic
A book that is as elusive and ethereal as a dream, it left me with a sense of something profound and beautiful and sad, painted in greys and blues. Engine Summer says a whole heap about how a culture is built on the stories it tells itself, where myths come from and how they tell us who we are. It is post-apocalyptic, but also kind of hippie-utopian, told in a rich, mapley voice (the writing actually reminded me a bit of Tom Spanbauer) and full of unexpected little touches and lush, dreamy visua ...more
Apr 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Well, for once it is nice to read about post-apocalyptic utopias, even if they do come about through the “ignorance is bliss” principle. Since comparisons with Hoban’s work seem unavoidable, I’d say this was a pacifist Riddley Walker for those more poetically inclined, if it wasn’t for Riddley Walker already being pure poetry, so, yeah. I’m not really sure how to go about this.

Frankly, I would not recommend this book to most anyone, certain that the majority of readers would be bored to tears by
Alex Storer
Aug 20, 2014 rated it it was ok
Engine Summer is evidently one of those "Marmite" books - you either love it, or you don't. Unfortunately I fall into the latter category, finding it quite hard to follow. A frustrating and difficult read, it's easy to lose track of what's going on. I've heard it called poetic and beautiful, but sadly for me, it was just confusing.

I found this book to lean more towards fantasy rather than science fiction. However, there is some lovely imagery in the writing, and the scenario is very interesting
Nov 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is one of those perfect fables that if you read it early enough maybe it lives with you forever, and even if you don't it maybe still does. The only Crowley book I've read that gets sublime in the first 20 pages instead of the last 20 -- and that's coming from the very same mind best known for Little, Big, which I think I call "maniacally subtle" in my review. This is not maniacally subtle, but it's delightfully crafted and makes me ache with poignant joy. If you read Little, Big think of t ...more
Sep 14, 2007 rated it really liked it
I "accidentally" read this book while I was trying to find a book I had read as a Jr High student. I put out a few aspects of the story I remembered and some suggested this could be it. It wasn't, but it was still pretty good.
It is a post apocalyptic coming of age tale. Crowley's style is fairly distinct, and once you get used to it, the pages just fly by. There are spacklings of advanced technology, but in this piece it does not take center stage, it is just a prop. I don't know exactly how a w
Dec 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
If I had to choose one book to convince a skeptical English professor of the power of speculative fiction, this would be it. John Crowley has spectacular talent, no question, but in too much of his work (i.e. Aegypt) it's wasted on aimless new-age musings while the story goes slowly nowhere. Not so here. Engine Summer is stuffed with ideas and themes enough to fuel a book five times as long, but they are all in service to the protagonist's story and what it says about human nature and human need ...more
Pippi Bluestocking
May 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, beloved
Engine Summer: A Review in Verse

some books
when you hold them between your hands
they almost have a pulse
each word a heartbeat pumping life between the pages

They are pieces of a universe that exists somewhere else
you've never seen it
yet you know when you meet it
you simply know
and a little bit excitedly
you know that these books
are made out of stardust of the same star
scattered between worlds

Discovering them is like a piece of miracle
cutting time and space in two
This is one of those rare novels that will either change you forever, or leave you cold and wondering why you've wasted your time. If you look at my star rating, you'll know what it did for me. Crowley writes beautiful prose, and it's possibe to get lost in it , which normally drives me crazy, but it makes Engine Summer feel like something special, a sacred little book. It will uproot you; you'll find yourself looking back at the brief moment you were alive and realizing that one day it will be ...more
Aug 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2008, favorites
This is a John Crowley book, so I will read it again and again, each time finding I have more to learn, and love. I found this slow going despite the short length, but that is typical of Crowley at least in my experience - more a reflection of my desire to relish his writing than any difficulty in the reading. Having typed that, I look forward to re-readings and catching all of the nuances I'm sure I missed this time around. Post-apocalyptic, beautiful and devastating. ...more
May 30, 2018 marked it as xx-dnf-skim-reference
Another dusty mm pb... what was I thinking when I picked this up wherever in heck I did? More power to you if you like this kind of thing, but it's not for me.

Oh it feels so good to get rid of these books that I've hauled around several homes in CC... now that we're headed all the way to MO, I've no more excuses to try to read stuff I'm not really interested in.
May 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I am kinda in literary shock right now. It is clear from my rating that I felt this novel was fantastic... it is just...

Engine Summer is the third novel by John Crowley. It is definitely at this point that he begins to become the writer that would later write the better known novel: Little, Big. There is quite a bit similar between Little, Big and Engine Summer. Seasons play a huge role both symbolically and plotwise in both, and you could sum up both by saying they are about "The Tale" (to use
Joy Pixley
Jul 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As soon as I started re-reading this book for the first time in a few decades, I immediately chastised myself for not re-reading it earlier and more often. I was not a writer when I first read it, and now that I am, I am even more amazed at Crowley's skill. (I also realize how much my writing was influenced by him, and gladly so!) The character of Rush that Speaks immediately engaged me and kept me rooting for him, and heartbroken for him, with his earnest longing and curiosity and love, which i ...more
Linda Robinson
Mar 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Much appreciation to Magdelyne for asking if I'd read this book. I reviewed Crowley's Aegypt here, and I remember thinking - both when I read it and then reviewed it - that Crowley came so close to explaining everything. Every thing. Engine Summer is set is a world millennia beyond engines and the angels who built those. Our hero Rush that Speaks belongs to Palm Cord, The Truthful Speakers cord. TS[s} say what they mean, and mean what they say. His lodging is Little Belaire; a habitat that reads ...more
Apr 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Engine Summer is the most beautiful post-apocalyptic novel I've ever read.

That may sound like faint praise given that that particular sub-genre isn't generally known for its beauty or lyricism (although come to think of it, I would describe the great classic of the sub-genre A Canticle for Leibowitz in such terms), but it is also one of the most beautifully written works of science fiction I've yet to read.

John Crowley is an incredibly talented stylist, and reveals the concepts and nature of h
Gordon Houghton
Apr 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is probably one of the most beautiful books I've read; which isn't to say it's always interesting, because it isn't, and at times it can be downright slow. But it's a pace you grow used to, a future world of deep thoughts and slow seasons, of change and reflection, often poetic in its intensity. I can't say I always enjoyed reading it, it's not a page-turner, and I didn't want to come back to it every night - and yet... There's something about it! It left me with the same impression of a un ...more
Anne Woods
Mar 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sci-fi-fantasy
Sometimes a character in book can become your friend. In that way Rush-that-Speaks has become a friend to me. I've even thought if I had a son I'd name him "Rush"! Rush-that-Speaks takes journey across what was our country, but is now a wide open land with isolated small communities living here and there, and long-deserted freeways that go from one side to the other and back again. Interestingly enough, RTS takes this journey with the mind of cat. [What?!] Yes, the mind of cat. I can't explain h ...more
Jenna Howe
Apr 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I'm re-reading this again, as I do every few years. It's eerily beautiful, a puzzle that twists and turns, reveals itself and then shifts into something new. With the frankness of a small child, it makes profound observations on human nature and on our love affair with technology.

The book reads like poetry, evoking emotions and images that linger long after the book is back on the shelf. Give yourself time to savor this book. And give yourself time to read it twice. When I first reached the las
Brilliant,unsettling,even the humour in this post-apocolyptic story of stories is chilling. LikeRussell Hobans Riddley Walkerthis book is best read fast enough not to get bogged down in WTF moments. The writing is a delight.

Especially intuiging to me is the new clan system at New Belaire. If we could learn how to Be Truthful Speakers,maybe we might be able to learn from JC´s cautions.
Yórgos St.
Jul 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Poetic and complex. I guess that you will appreciate more the story of Rush once you know how it ends. Then, you will be able to fully comprehend all of his inner turmoils and his passionate narration. Why his quest was so important and what he wanted to achieve through it. Did he achieve it at the end ? A part of him surely did! I think that a second read it's mandatory, after all the greatest part in this book are the Snake-hands. ...more
Jan 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I originally read Crowley's first three novels when they came out in the mid- to late 70s. I thought they were mind-blowing then. This one in particular has improved with age. Like the tale told by its narrator, it is a series of beautiful crystals, illuminating in their obscurity. A beautiful book. ...more
Alex Brady
Sep 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Half the reviews say this book is boring and not worth your time.
The other half seem to view it as a narrow door into a deeply strange and interesting world. Im in the second group. This book haunts me always, I love it very much.
May 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The ending just makes you realise that only now you understand what you have been reading all along, and so makes you want to read it all over again. A mind-blowing achievement as what literature can mean to unravel the nature of what we call reality;
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

John Crowley was born in Presque Isle, Maine, in 1942; his father was then an officer in the US Army Air Corps. He grew up in Vermont, northeastern Kentucky and (for the longest stretch) Indiana, where he went to high school and college. He moved to New York City after colle

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