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The Waking Engine

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Welcome to the City Unspoken, where Gods and Mortals come to die.

Contrary to popular wisdom, death is not the end, nor is it a passage to some transcendent afterlife. Those who die merely awake as themselves on one of a million worlds, where they are fated to live until they die again, and wake up somewhere new. All are born only once, but die many times . . . until they come at last to the City Unspoken, where the gateway to True Death can be found.

Wayfarers and pilgrims are drawn to the City, which is home to murderous aristocrats, disguised gods and goddesses, a sadistic faerie princess, immortal prostitutes and queens, a captive angel, gangs of feral Death Boys and Charnel Girls . . . and one very confused New Yorker.

Late of Manhattan, Cooper finds himself in a City that is not what it once was. The gateway to True Death is failing, so that the City is becoming overrun by the Dying, who clot its byzantine streets and alleys . . . and a spreading madness threatens to engulf the entire metaverse.

400 pages, Hardcover

First published February 11, 2014

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David Edison

4 books44 followers

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5 stars
143 (16%)
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248 (28%)
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182 (21%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 190 reviews
Profile Image for Hanne.
222 reviews316 followers
February 8, 2014
In just a few days this book will be decorating the Fantasy/Sci-Fi shelves of many bookstores. Whoever made this cover did a terrific job of creating something gorgeous and interesting, but also matching the marvellous world-building showcased in the book. Hats off to the designer, but also to the imagination of this author.

In Waking Engine, we find ourselves confronted with the idea that death isn’t quite that final. In most cases it just means you wake up in another world. Only a few places can grant you final Death, and one of them the City Unspoken. The descriptions of this city were really amazing, and I kept trying to make these mental pictures of what it would look like.

“The day had corrupted the blue sky, and the promising morning had already miscarried into a sickly yellow noonday – the twin suns fused into a kind of angry mating, their orbs gone orange, streams of red-black plasma arcing between them as they grew steadily closer together. Another costume change for the sky above the City Unspoken.”

Despite all the potential, it wasn’t a slam dunk for me. First of all, I kept wishing I had some buddies to read this book together with. People like we have in our Malazan Fallen group for instance, to help each other discovering the elements, because parts of this book were just so complicated and confusing. I kept reading on, hoping it would all come together eventually, but for a long time it was just fog in my head. I think this book will be better on a re-read.

The second thing is that the characters were a bit flat. Especially the main protagonist Cooper: he is our unexpected hero and saviour and yet we get very little out of him. He seems as lost in this world as I was. Perhaps that was the point, but I find it hard to read a story if I cannot connect to the majority of the characters.

Without a doubt, the best part of the book is the storyline inside the dome, not surprisingly because it’s the least confusing part and has characters that are really fleshed out. I also liked all the little jokes that are woven through the scenes: A character called Nixon for instance, who claimed he learned to land on his feet from Olga Korbut.

Net, a really promising story, but I wished it was at least 100 pages longer. That would have slowed down the pace, decrease the level of complication and add more time for character building. I would have loved Edison to do what he did in the inside-the-dome-storyline for the entire book, so the light bulb inside my head would have lit and chased the fog away or the entire story. (Aye, I just had to make an Edison joke in here somewhere, right?)

Disclaimer: This book has been provided by the publisher. This review reflects my own experience and opinion with this book. All quotes are taken from the pre-published copy and may be altered or omitted from the final copy.
Profile Image for Mogsy (MMOGC).
2,030 reviews2,604 followers
February 7, 2014
2 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum http://bibliosanctum.blogspot.com/201...

Not for the first time, I wish I had a system in place for giving two ratings to a book: 1) An objective rating in which I give a book stars based on its own merits, uninfluenced by my personal feelings, and 2) A subjective rating which is based on how a book worked for me personally, or how well it meshed with my personal tastes. This is going to be a very tough review for me to write, simply because I've never read a book like this, where those two ratings could not be any more different, but I'm also glad I have the chance to explain why.

The book begins with a young man named Cooper waking up in an unfamiliar place to two strangers fussing over his sudden appearance, and the answers he gets are decidedly not reassuring. Apparently, he is dead. Contrary to what we know about death, when someone dies they merely wake up as themselves somewhere else, appearing on one of a possible million universes where they will once again live out their lives and the whole process repeats itself. That is, until you reach the end and wind up at the City Unspoken, also known as the City of the Dead, because only on this world a person can find true death.

This is where Cooper wakes up. But he has also come at a very unsettling time, where something seems to be preventing True Death from happening, leading to widespread frustration and panic among the denizens of the city. There are some who believe Cooper may be the solution to the problem, as he is different. For one thing, he has a belly button. A navel is really nothing but a scar left over from the attachment of the umbilical cord, and because all are born only once but die many times, waking up on new worlds with their bodies whole and unmarred, the fact Cooper has one holds great significance. He may not be really dead.

And from here on out, it gets even stranger. But hey, you'd too if you were Cooper, dragged across the metaverse by a goddess, kidnapped by faeries, drugged by Cleopatra, engulfed by a machine-flesh creature, and pursued by undead monsters and evil elf beings. I love it when I find a unique book with very different, offbeat ideas, but The Waking Engine treads into seriously bizarre territory. More bizarre than I could handle, perhaps. It's the kind of book I can't tackle at night right before bed, because I wake up in the morning and can't remember if I actually dreamed or read these weird images. I tried really hard to embrace the weirdness, but it soon became clear that I was in way over my head.

And that's a real shame, too. It almost breaks my heart to say I didn't like this one as much as I thought I would. The ideas in this story are some of the most original ones I've ever encountered in science fiction and fantasy, and the characters are unconventional and diverse as well. Unfortunately, the strangeness was a barrier for me, preventing me from appreciating all of the positive aspects of this book to its fullness. It's difficult to connect to a character, for instance, when instead I'm putting all my effort into trying to make sense of everything that's happening. The world is also wildly imaginative, which is another huge plus to this book, but words cannot describe just how amazing and fantastical it is. I mean that literally in this case; I get the sense from Edison's writing that the environments he pictures in his mind are so vast and visionary that they transcend mere language.

I wanted to like The Waking Engine so much because objectively, it is a great book, deftly and beautifully written with ground breaking ideas, interesting characters, and incredible world building. But I have to be honest, it was just not my style. There's lots to love about this book, but it just has to find its intended audience, which unfortunately is not me. On the other hand, I think fans of "un-reality" or the metaphysical or more abstract elements in their speculative fiction will be very well pleased with this one. Give it a shot if that's the type of stories you like, I guarantee you won't be disappointed.
Profile Image for Jason.
1,179 reviews256 followers
April 21, 2014
5 Stars

What an amazing ride is this novel. The Waking Engine is a high concept science fiction fantasy that will make you think about life and what it means to live and die. I wish that I had written a review as soon as I finished this one but that was two weeks ago. As is I cannot give it the due that it deserves. I can only give it my highest recommendations and to let all my friends know that I am sure that they too will enjoy this book.

"Oh, thought Cooper, with a detached nausea that brought more of himself online by reflex. Machines that feed on life. A family of evil faeries, starring Lallowë Thyu. A cyborg queen with the body of a Chinese dragon, who wants to devour the chewy center of the City Unspoken. Of fucking course.”

“Tam cocked his head sideways. “You’re a strange young man, CooperOmphale.”
“Well of course I am. You’d be strange too if you started your week as a magic turd who’d been dragged across the universe—metaverse, whatever— by a goddess, kidnapped by a faerie princess, drugged by Cleopatra, met the Cicatrix from the inside out, fucked and flayed by a dead gigolo from the motherland, saved an angel-thing from an undead monster straight outta Vogue, dumped in cave of tears, and thrust into the mansion of an evil elf who’s sounding more and more like Cruella De Vil every minute. Does she wear puppies? Oh, and Nixon was there.””

Highly recommended!!!
Profile Image for Rafaela.
45 reviews10 followers
March 25, 2015
NOTE: This book was provided by the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

(review on my blog)

1. Plot
Cooper is not your average book protagonist. He’s gay, he’s overweight, and he’s dead. (this is where I give David Edison a respectful high five because YAY PROTAGONISTS THAT BREAK THE MOLD!) When he wakes up in the City Unspoken, with no idea of how he got there, he is immediately adopted by a grey-skinned man and a pink-haired woman, who seem to believe he is the solution to the overpopulation problem that plagues the City because the dying can no longer die. Of course, you and I know where this is going. Cooper, is of course, the good old Chosen One. In the span of a few days, he develops totally rad powers, including sensing people's fear in verbal form and traveling through some sort of anachronic faerie-powered internet, and in the end, he does what Chosen Ones usually do. Meh.

This is the main plot – and it’s pretty bland, compared to the subplots. Look above. Look at the blurb. See the murderous aristocrats? Sure, I know we see nobles killing each other in 90% of fantasy books... but not while they’re locked inside a glass dome, not over something as fickle as wearing the same dress two days in a row, and definitely not when none of them can actually die (since their souls are bound to their bodies). It’s inside the dome that we meet Purity Kloo, a noble girl desperate to find a way out – so desperate, indeed, that she spends a week slitting her own throat only to come back every single time.

Sure, a story about murderous teenage nobles dressed in the metaverse's equivalent of Lolita fashion wouldn't have appealed to the target audience that The Waking Engine is trying to attract, I suspect... but I had a lot of fun with Purity's subplot, and would have switched it for Cooper’s without so much as a second thought.

Final words about the plot: it's convoluted. I love the idea of the City Unspoken, but a setting that is part our world part every other world in existence demands time, and Edison doesn't cut the reader any slack before overwhelming them with references to greek mythology (Omphale, right, well played), the AIDS epidemic of the 80s, Cleopatra’s historical relevance, the wise advice of a beluga whale, and the literal ins-and-ours of a cyborg Queen.

2. Characters
As far as protagonists go, Cooper sure breaks a couple of molds, but it takes more than that to write a good character. It’s not just that he’s uninteresting, he’s not even very coherent – he speaks like an angry New Yorker ready to break a few noses, but his inner monologue is equal parts disoriented, skeptic, and terrified, and his actions are reactive at best. Sometimes I felt as if I was reading three different characters. And then, of course, he meets attractive men and his brain goes into full shutdown, which is both amusing and exasperating. Focus, sir!

About Purity (our other protagonist, sort of), I found her to be just the right balance between... well, what her name suggests her to be, and someone I wouldn’t want to cross on a bad day. She’s smart, she’s competent, she’s a bit of a wildcard, and she’s sexual without being sexualised. I could see her leading a girl gang, really.

I won’t write about every character, so let me just wrap this section by saying this book achieved something really, really good with its female characters. Here, women move most of the plot, making this book something I’d like to show all those male writers who say “they can’t write women”. Listen, here’s the secret: write more than one-two, and give them a personality of their own. Thank you, David Edison.

3. Setting/worldbuilding
I’ve already written a bit about my love for the City Unspoken as a concept, but now I’d like to present a complaint about the way it was written. For a place where people of all universes come to die, the City was a little overpopulated by humans, no? Even the architecture of the place was awfully familiar – taverns, shady boarding houses, classy bordellos, sex workers on every street corner. If your City is a repository of culture for every universe, why does it look like every dark medieval-ish city I’ve ever read? Surely beings from other universes have priorities other than food-sleep-sex, no? If not, I call lazy writing. It takes more than supernatural powers and skin of an unnatural color to create a different species.

Now to the good points: I loved the Apostery, a temple for dead religions. (what an idea!) I also found the different types of “prostitutes” very interesting – I mean, it’s terribly morbid to have someone body-bound accepting their own murder every day in exchange for money, but it’s a good idea that fits perfectly with the bigger picture. I could have lived with a little less “whores” and “sluts” every two paragraphs, though.

4. Writing style
As a general rule, I don’t complain too much about elaborate writing styles, because I like them. Here, though, I found the “style” really overwhelming – there were sentences I had to read over and over again, just to extract some meaning from their structure and the excess of strange, possibly universe-relevant but plot-irrelevant words.

Conclusion: the ideas behind this book are all very good, but the execution left quite a bit to be desired. The main-main character, Cooper, is easily the least interesting character in the book. The setting wasn’t as exhaustively explored as it should have been – or, in any case, as I wish it could have been. The writing style was a little too much for me. It’s not bad, in any way, but I can’t lie – it took me a month to get through it, and that simply doesn’t happen with books I like. So, it shall receive a two-star rating, and I’ll keep my fingers crossed for David Edison’s next book.
Profile Image for Jasmine.
44 reviews
February 5, 2014
I was excited about reading this book based on the premise and cover art. I love science fiction and I feel like it's rare to find a non super-cheesy one.
I got the ARC (Advanced Reading Copy)of Waking Engine and dug in. But once I started I just wanted to stop. I kept asking questions out loud while reading about various courses of action or characters that were popping up with little explanation.

The book begins with Cooper, a young man from our Earth waking up in a strange land with a green sun after he fell asleep like usual in his bed, texting his friends. He wakes up to find himself feeling awful and being prodded by two strange looking characters with fantastical qualities of appearance.The two quibbling strangers - Asher and Sesstri take Cooper under their wing for a brief span while they think he may be some kind of savior.
Profile Image for Ruby  Tombstone Lives!.
338 reviews412 followers
October 27, 2015
I keep finding that the more eloquent the writer of a book is, the harder it is to adequately review said book. None the less, it's worth giving this one a shot..

This is a book which somehow manages to combine: vile bloodthirsty faerie princesses, a fox-faced Anglo-Celtic nursery rhyme character, immortal prostitutes who die for a living, a brothel-keeper who also happens to be a famous historical figure, gangs of sexy death boys and charnel girls, elemental creatures bigger and older than gods, fashionable lich lords straight out of Harper's Bazaar, a cybernetic faerie queen snake monster, a beluga whale who's also a psychiatrist, giant glowing ancient one-eyed bird god thingies and...oh, Richard Nixon. Not only does the book bring all of these elements together, it brings them together in a totally credible, readable, thought-provoking and enjoyable way.
The latest in Lich Chic?

Somehow, a book with all of the aforementioned elements also manages to be intelligent, prompting the reader to contemplate the true meaning of life and death.

What may be even better than all of these things combined though, is the central character - Cooper. A sarcastic New Yorker in jeans and a Danzig tee (I loved this detail), who also happens to be gay. It is beyond refreshing to see a gay lead, without this becoming a major plot-point in itself. All too often, a gay main character means that the book becomes a treatise on gender and sexuality, however that detail really is treated as being beside the point in The Waking Engine.

If I had one minor quibble, it would be that the story was a teensy bit lacking in emotion for me. It's not that this was something I was looking for in a book at the time, but it's the only thing lacking which prevented The Waking Engine from being a perfect reading experience. I didn't have many moments of pure epiphany, joy or sorrow. Otherwise this would have made it to my elusive "Favourites" shelf, as well as garnering five stars.

I do think the book came close though, particularly in its examination of . Considering that I picked this up in an airport, expecting a pretty standard fantasy genre-piece, I was extremely happy to be proven wrong.

All up: I loved the complex, intelligent story. I loved the wry, gritty humour. I loved the beautiful writing.

4.75 Stars

Profile Image for Elizabeth.
114 reviews405 followers
July 28, 2015
A lot of people have asked for my thoughts on this book, so here you go freaks…

When I read a review, I like to see how the book or film matches up to other pop culture references. The Waking Engine is a mix of The Matrix (heavily influenced by The Wachowskis), Hans Christian Anderson, weirdly The City of Bones (faeries/magical creatures/urban setting), and David Bowie.

This book is hard to summarize, so I am going to keep it simple. Man dies. Man wakes up in The City Unspoken. Man finds out when you die you wake up on endless planets until you die the final death. Man makes friends. Cyber faeries and undead sky lords are trying to take over the City Unspoken. Man and friends have to stop them.

Let’s go over some things I loved:
I loved reading from the perceptive of a gay main character.
I loved the character Purity Kloo.
I LOVED the female characters in general—heroes and villains.
I loved the author’s concept of the after life even though it sounds absolutely terrifying.
I loved how easily the writer plays with grotesque situations and humor in the same sentence.

There were characters and scenes that I loved, but (deciding whether this was a big “but” or not made it hard to pick between 3 or 4 stars) I never felt like I got enough of those elements that I enjoyed. They were often padded in between wordy, vague descriptions and unanswered questions. A LOT of unanswered questions. Though the book is set up for a sequel, I am not sure if the author is actively working on a sequel.

This book is ambitious, daring, and…confusing. You can sense the youthfulness of his writing. A unique storyteller that more people should be talking about. I would definitely be interested to read more of his work.
Profile Image for Dark Faerie Tales.
2,274 reviews545 followers
March 10, 2015
Review courtesy of Dark Faerie Tales

Quick & Dirty: A book with very big ideas that ultimately just didn’t deliver for me.

Opening Sentence: The room was empty except for the smell of disuse and a small woman with a heart-shaped face and a cloud of flaming red hair.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

This review is going to be a little different than my usual ones. Normally, I open with a bit of a synopsis of the plot of the book. I can’t really do that in this case because even after 400+ pages, I have absolutely no idea what just happened. The main concept is great. A man (Cooper) wakes up to find himself in a strange place. He discovers that when you die, you don’t move onto any sort of afterlife. Instead, you wake up somewhere else and live another life. This cycle continues until you reach the end of the road: The City Unspoken. Here, you can reach True Death. Except, True Death isn’t happening anymore, and that’s a problem. Why it’s a problem is one of those things I’m not so clear on. Add in a whole bunch of interesting creatures – including cyborg fae, which are an awesome concept, but I’m once again not clear on what they had to do with the overall story – and you get a book that had wonderful potential but just failed to deliver.

I’ll be honest, I started reading this back in November. It is now the beginning March. It was like pulling teeth to get me to pick this book up. I considered DNFing it many times, but just couldn’t bring myself to not finish a book. So I finally managed to finish it and now find myself speechless when trying to come up with words for this review. That more than anything might express my overall feelings.

The truly painful part of it is that this book is beautifully written. There were some times when I would find myself completely captivated by how he can turn a phrase. But then, there were other times where I would find myself spacing out because I just could not grasp what was going on. It’s clear that Edison put a lot of thought into creating this world, but I think, in the end, Edison maybe had too many ideas and couldn’t find a way to bring them all into a cohesive whole. There is just too much going on, too many characters, too many point of view changes, and it ends up feeling very jumbled.

I wish I could write as well as Edison does and give a cohesive review of what did and didn’t work for me. But when I try and put into words my feelings on the book, I just feel this overall sense of confusion. There were so many things about this book that could have been great, but because they were all mashed into one book, it was hard to really appreciate anything because there was just too much to straighten out in my head. I may try to read Edison’s next book to see if he’s perhaps resolved some of these issues, but I’ll be going into the experience with a lot of hesitation.

Notable Scene:

A yelp from outside broke the silence.

Glass shattered and Sesstri screamed. The shadows of men appeared at the windows, then climbed into the room, and Asher leapt to action; he became a whirl of smoke that streamed to a bay window and brought down two men in brown leather smocks, their heads smashing together with a satisfying crunch.

Cooper sat up in alarm but found himself paralyzed. There wasn’t time to be frightened, but for all his determination to wrap his head around the events of the day, his death and its subsequent repeal, the tale of the city and the worlds and lives upon lives, Cooper had no instinct for dealing with violence.

Sesstri and Asher had no such limitations. Asher continued to fell men in a blur of gray skin and twirling rags, while Sesstri had knives in each hand and stood like a pink and yellow-silk valkyrie with her back against the stairs, etching a sphere of safety into the air around herself with the flurry of her blades. One of her assailants fell back, clutching his guts as they slipped out of a sudden gash. Were those kitchen knives or daggers? Was she prepared to eviscerate men at a moment’s notice?

Cooper found the good sense to jump behind the sofa in which he’d been sitting and tried to hide, but in doing so realized that he’d exhausted his combat training. Asher’s right, he thought, I really am helpless. But I can flag down a mean cab.

More men streamed in, and Asher became a rush of doves beating wings against a storm, his hands and elbows and feet his only weapons, pale blades of bone and skin that danced violent and dangerous at the head of the sudden incursion. Blood flew from the faces of the men who swarmed him. They were pulling themselves through other windows now, and someone kicked down the door with a smash.

“Cooper!” Sesstri called. “To me! Upstairs, now!”

FTC Advisory: Tor/Macmillan provided me with a copy of The Waking Engine. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
Profile Image for Sarah.
Author 19 books431 followers
February 12, 2014
So, what are my final thoughts?

The Waking Engine is incredibly untraditional. It is a beautifully written book with a shocking amount of depth. While some readers might feel like the depth and philosophy behind it all can be a bit too much, readers who aren’t turned off by that are really in for a treat. Edison’s first novel is brave. He strays from the popular path, from genre tropes and common fantasies, and blazes his own trail. The Waking Engine makes you work, and that’s half the charm. The other half of the charm lies in Edison’s prose, and the City Unspoken, which is one of the most vibrant, alive, and thought provoking places I’ve read about recently. If this is the starting point for Edison’s career as an author then truly the stars are the limit.

Bravo, Edison. I can’t wait to see what you churn out next.

Read my full review here:

Profile Image for Kdawg91.
258 reviews14 followers
February 1, 2014
This was actually about a 3 and 1/2 in my view (I don't round up unless it's a stellar book.)

First and foremost, I congratulate Mr. Edison on the sheer bleeding craziness of this book, The world was like a China Mieville book on LSD (Figure that one out.) HOWEVER, the main plot was a bit bland and the sheer amount of knots the subplots tied themselves into don't keep you involved enough to keep interest. The language is stunning in spots and a touch overdone in others.

That being said, I dig imagination and wild ass ideas, I will check out further works by Mr. Edison, THIS TIME, slack plot and confusing me only works the first time :)
Profile Image for Scott.
517 reviews
January 18, 2016
A richly imaginative novel that overwhelms the reader with wondrous imagery while leaving the actual story in the dust. I still don't understand the reincarnation premise, or why any number of characters did the things they did. There is a murder mystery somewhere within that was the most interesting aspect for me, but by the end of the book it seems like a footnote. Still, I mostly enjoyed it and continued on where I might have put another book down, which says a lot about the quality of the writing.
Profile Image for Milo.
770 reviews82 followers
December 12, 2013
A very strong and unorthodox science fiction novel. Pretty good indeed - full review closer to publication date, and it's a book that I was sold on because of the cover. 2014 is already off to a strong start and I haven't read a bad book from next year (even if I've only read three) so far.
Profile Image for Caleb Hill.
69 reviews
February 14, 2014
“'When we die, we don't cease to exist or turn into shimmering motes of ectoplasm or purple angels or anything else you may have been brought up to believe. We just...go on living. Someplace else.'”

I oftentimes feel like I can tell when a book is objectively good or not. Yes, there are personal biases and selective tastes that make this wrong, but on a general level, I like to think I know what makes a good book. The problem with The Waking Engine is not wholly that it has its flaws, but that the style just wasn't for me. It's a good book, in certain aspects, but more than that, it's a type of New Weird that is not the bizarre I usually love. It's an absurd niche in that subgenre, and I just couldn't take it.

If you're lost, bear with me.

Edison's debut starts off with the main character, Cooper, waking up in a strange land. He's disoriented, as is the reader. As the man stumbles along on his journey, we learn that there is no Heaven and Hell, unless metaphorically you think there is. Instead, people are reborn over and over again. At the end of their tale, they come to the City Unspoken. Here, people come to Die for the last time. Problem is, the gate is clogged, and a disease is spreading through the streets, causing pilgrims to turn into brainless zombies. The people that find Cooper believe he is the savior, simply because he has a belly button, a scar that disappears after your first death. Because of this, they think he isn't dead. So he's going to save the world, by golly.

And that's the easy part to grasp. Throw in cyborg-fey (which is probably the coolest idea of the book), gray-skinned folks, whores that kill themselves for profit, a tower where religions go to die, and psuedo-vampires that feast on pain, and you have the basis for the world-building. Yeah, I wasn't kidding when I said this was a strange land.

Edison's imagination is by far his best tool. But I would argue his prose is just as wonderful. It's poetic, verbose, and lovely. He can capture a scene almost perfectly. This transfers greatly with his ideas, letting the reader see them easily. However, Edison has a big problem with overwriting scenes. He's borderline pretentious. There are times when my patience was tested. His love of the written word can, at times, slow down the pace tremendously. I enjoyed walking in his mind, but not having to make mine work so much.

Even though he explains very well, he either does too much or too little. Because of this, your gray matter is constantly being taxed. It doesn't make for a pleasurable ride. That's not to say it's a bad thing; I just wasn't enamored. I wanted a middle of the road approach. Maybe something intelligent but subtle. Instead, Edison released a purple elephant on us and said it was a giraffe.

This ability to write craziness often translated to me becoming lost. The ideas can become unfocused and opaque. But when Edison does hit the mark, he does it so well.

“What he saw seemed to be the very idea of a city, barnacled and thick with itself.”

His worst execution might be the plot. The first half really shows his weakness in plotting. Nothing really happens, and if it does, it comes out of nowhere with no real motivation or foreshadowing. The beginning creates a sense of build-up, but that goes nowhere. The characters don't make decisions. Edison does for them. As the story progresses, it doesn't get better. The author juggles multiple subplots, creating tangents that are interesting in their own right (especially when we're inside the Dome), but become tangled near the end. Edison doesn't really unravel all of them, which hurts him.

I would say the worst thing Edison did in his first novel was try and be too ambitious. He tried to do too much, and ultimately missed the mark.

Nowhere else does this ring truest than with the characters. Besides Nixon, Purity, and the cyborg-fey, the majority of the cast don't have any real motivation, or at least none that I could decipher. Cooper, in fact, is the worst of them all. He's the most uncompelling protagonist I've read in a good while. Edison tried to go for an everyman, an anyman that the average Joe could attach to, but I don't read to experience what would probably happen if the Chosen One was randomly picked off the streets and deposited in another dimension to save the day. I don't like stupid and lost heroes. I want competence and drive. I want active characters. Cooper is anything but that. The outsider wasn't done well. The execution was off.

But what saddens me the most is that Edison tries too hard to make the city into a character, and sacrifices the cast for it. The place is interesting, of course, but he needed to take time away from that and insert it into the characters. He didn't.

While Edison's debut The Waking Engine does a marvelous job of sketching out a city being overrun by the indifference and destruction of death, he fails miserably on every other part. He has too many ideas, and not enough focus for them. I could read his writings all day long, that's for sure, but I'd rather sit in one of his short stories than a bloated novel.

“His dog, Astrid—would she sit by the door, waiting for him, wondering why he never came back to her? She wouldn't understand, just ache. The same when for Cooper as for those he'd left behind. No understanding, just pain and loss and a false promise of peace at the end.”
Profile Image for Therin Knite.
Author 11 books163 followers
June 26, 2017


My Take

Oh my. Where to begin?

How about what I liked?

Firstly, this is the most original book I think I have ever read in my life. There was so much amazing, unique world-building in this story. I mean, an unimaginable amount of thought must have gone into the concepts in this book. There are layers upon layers in this story — I’d have to reread it ten times to really grasp all the ideas. And that’s quite an impressive feat. As far as I know, this is a debut novel, and to come up with something so different on your first try is very, very hard. Yet this book is different on more levels than I can name.

I applaud that. Really I do. The world-building effort that went into this novel is tangible. You can see it on every page, in every plot point, in every character backstory. Superb world-building. Amazing, unique ideas.

That being said, I had several majors issues with this book.

The plot was, by far, my biggest problem. I don’t know why most of the events in the story happened. Some of the plot points just came out of left field. Some of them seemed very contrived. The POVs switched around so much I lost count of the POV characters. There was a ton of missing information that I needed to understand what was going on this story, and without that information, I was lost. The book was dragging me along, throwing fights and conversations and sex and monsters and weird mixes of science and magic in my face, and I didn’t know why. At the end, I still didn’t know why.

I finished this book feeling very confused. While I understood the general plot, the depth I got from the world-building was absent plot-wise because there was so much of it that didn’t make any sense to me.

To complicate that, I had character issues. I didn’t get a good read on any of the characters in this story. Their backstories were told, their personalities explained, but I never saw the characters with my own eyes. For example, I never got a good grasp on what kind of person Cooper was. Everybody just told him what to be and he accepted it with a shrug. I know basically nothing about him, even though I’ve read the whole book, and most of the plot involved him getting jerked around by other characters. It felt like he had no agency. And I had similar issues with all the characters.

Lastly, there were very weird blends of formal, fantasy-like language and modern tones in this book. There are these really philosophical-sounding passages that suddenly devolve into something disturbingly modern. There was weird, “computer” language going on in places. There was modern American slang mixed in with the typical “fantasy-type” words you see in the genre. Now, I don’t have a problem with this in theory — it actually works with the world-building. It makes sense. The story takes place in this massive city that contains people from all over the so-called “metaverse.” So you would expect strange language development.

Except a lot of the language was jarring. It didn’t really flow. And the mixing appeared in places that made little sense. Like with Cooper. Why would he think that way? He just got to the city. His thoughts shouldn’t sound that way. His dialogue shouldn’t that sound that way.

Don’t get me wrong, there was a lot of good content in this story. But the execution overall left a lot to be desired. An interesting and original piece, for sure, but the plot and character development were lacking.



Detail-wise, I like the writing style. There were very vivid descriptions of the setting, which I liked because the world was so unique. I wanted to see it, and I got to see it. So good job on that front.

I did, however, have an issue with the structure. I mentioned the abundance of POVs? Yeah, there were a lot of abrupt scene changes and POV changes, and occasionally, I lost track of the timeline because it took so long to get back around to one character’s story. The structure needed to be streamlined a bit, simplified. It would have helped me understand the plot better, no doubt.


Is It Worth Reading?

Wow, this is a hard one. On the one hand, this is an incredibly unique story, and it has great, rich descriptions and incredible world-building. On the other hand, the plot is rather jumbled, and the characters are hard to connect with. I’m not going to give a definitive answer on this one. When the book comes out, read whatever sample you can get of it and decide for yourself. I have a feeling this will be a divisive book. Some people will love it. Some people with loathe it. It comes to down to what you value most in a book.



Profile Image for Stephanie  G.
1,122 reviews302 followers
February 13, 2014
Cooper wakes up in the City Unspoken. It’s the city where the dead come to die—only no one is dying. This is why Asher and Sesstri picked Cooper up and show him around. Asher believes he can save the city because he has shamanic properties. Sesstri declares this as false and they send him on his way. Only after this does she share the fact he has a belly button, something only first birth can produce. They go to rescue him, only to discover he is neck deep in plot. There is also the Dome, inside of it are the aristocrats of the City Unspoken, trapped in a dome with a weapon. Purity Kloo starts to put two and two together. She ends up figuring more out of the city than expected. There is also a faerie queen, strung out on body mods, and ready to take over the whole metaverse.

The Waking Engine is both sci-fi and fantasy, mixed together in an adult Alice in Wonderland type of world. It is David Edison’s debut, in which he shows a stunning range in prose style and imagination. There are worlds you are born on, but when you die, you travel to a different world keeping all of your memories. On and on this cycle goes until you reach the City Unspoken.

The story bounces from different characters as their plot lines start to tie into one another. Cooper is the main focus, the chosen one, and the novel really becomes stunning for me when he meets Cleopatra, who is a kind of psychedelic/poison/mind-reader dealer/prostitute. From there he is taken by a Death Boy, whose touch sends his body and mind into sexual compliance. The Death Boy takes him to the skies, and the writing in these scenes, hell all of it in this section blew me away. This is also where Cooper comes into his own, developing his senses and discovering the evil faerie Queen.

Lallowë is married to one of the only aristocrats not inside of the dome. She works for her mother, Cicatrix, who wants to throw the worlds into agony, but namely she wants the City Unspoken. Lallowë wants her mother’s throne, and spends her time leisurely torturing and killing her father every day, in other words she’s a nut case (in the best kind of way).

Purity Kloo sparked my imagination. Along with her aristocratic friends, she is stuck inside the dome. They are the councils demented daughters, who when we first meet them, leave to cut up a girl for not wearing the right thing. Purity isn’t an evil character, despite how it might seem. She’s rebellious. Because she is body bound and stuck in the dome. There is recklessness in her, but also she was by far my favorite character.

The Waking Engine isn’t going to be for everyone. It took me a long time to get through it, and I sometimes felt lost among the pages, but it was worth it. The world is stunning!! The prose is also just as stunning!! There is a quote I didn’t write down, and now I’m kicking myself for not- it was about the sky. In the City Unspoken the sky always looks different, sometimes red, blue, any and all colors as are the suns in hundreds of combinations. The quote was about the City Unspoken stealing the skies of other worlds, something about that resonated deep.

Why not a perfect score? Cooper was lacking for me, and while I did enjoy his journey, I wanted to feel closer to him. There were also a couple things I never fully grasped about being birthed, and how family worked out in the city. While this shouldn’t have thrown me I couldn’t get it out of my head. That doesn’t mean I don’t still love it! The actual little engines, the skies, the songs of death, all of it sparked my imagination and will stay with me for a very long time to come.
- Beth
Profile Image for Althea Ann.
2,232 reviews1,016 followers
January 22, 2014
This debut novel shows Edison’s promise as an author. It’s an ambitious tale, displaying depth of imagination and an unbridled love of words.
Comparisons? I’d definitely recommend this for fans of Catherynne Valente’s ‘Palimpsest.’ At times, it also reminded me of Richard Kadrey’s ‘Butcher Bird.’ The language felt very similar to the latter books of Cecilia Dart Thornton’s Bitterbynde Trilogy – and unfortunately, mileage may vary, but to me, that’s not really a good thing. There are some lovely turns of phrase here – but in many places, the language becomes so flowery and overloaded that it serves to obscure rather than illuminate the events being described. I felt there was room for more restraint in the style – to let the language serve the story, rather than vice versa.

The premise: A young New Yorker, Cooper, awakens in The City Unspoken, ‘where the dead come to die.’ You see, the world we know, Earth, is highly unusual, in that everyone here is born. Most places, it’s taken for granted that we have a near-endless succession of lives. The True Death is hard to find, and the City is full of the suicidal, seeking release.
The descriptions of The City are rich and wonderful; making it come alive as the truest character in the books.
Unfortunately, we never get to know Cooper. He seems like a stand-in for the author. We know he’s chubby, gay, wears a Danzig t-shirt, and had a loving family. That’s about it. The reader never really ‘feels’ him as a personality, and although many characters seem to think that he is the center of the strange events occurring in the City, I found myself wondering if he was even necessary to the story at all. As the book moves along, the focus shifts from Cooper, introducing other characters altogether, and their part in the drama seems far more compelling:

Suddenly, the reader finds oneself in the midst of a drama involving a power struggle involving some rarefied, imprisoned aristocrats, and some steampunk/programmer faeries, who are involved in some truly nasty and evil stuff. The fate of the whole City may be at stake… The young aristocrat Purity Kloo emerges as the one-to-watch here…

However, the way things progress, I thought the plot could also have used some tightening up and increased clarity: more flow, less, “Wait, what just happened to who, where?”

The story does a good job of mixing high drama and absurd, low comedy. I even enjoyed the appearance of various historical characters (something I often dislike), including Cleopatra, Nixon, and Walt Whitman (obviously a favorite of the author.) The atmosphere and grotesquerie were right up my alley.

I received a copy of this book through NetGalley. Thanks to Netgalley and to Tor Books!
Profile Image for Nicole.
115 reviews364 followers
September 6, 2014
The Waking Engine is the first novel from author David Edison, I received a free copy through netgalley in return for my honest review. This urban fantasy story has an interesting premise: when we die, we go on living on a different world in a different body, but with all the memories from our first lives. The main character, Cooper, awakens one day on a new world after going to bed like normal. He’s picked up by an unlikely pair, Asher and Sesstri, who think Cooper’s appearance might be related to the growing numbers of Dying who are coalescing in The City Unspoken. The world Cooper has arrived on is one of the few places a person can achieve ultimate Death. A cessation to all life and rebirth, but for reasons unknown the process seems to be stalled. After a brief interrogation, Asher and Sesstri decide Cooper is nothing special and let him loose into the world to sink or swim on his own.

The concept of this story drew me in and the poetic descriptions held my interest for awhile, but I ultimately didn’t respond positively to this book. Cooper was a passive character who couldn’t stand up to the grandiose descriptions of the world around him, and he basically faded into non-existence for the first half of the book. Much of the dialogue was stilted, and the interpersonal interactions between characters felt artificial and forced. The action sequences were video game-esq with all enemies being either swarms or boss battles. Description of swarm battles were non-specific, abstract affairs and surprisingly short. While boss battles involved slowly carving large monsters down to smaller pieces. Edison certainly isn’t the first author – and likely won’t be the last – I’ve read who draws on video games to describe action, but I don’t care much for the technique.

I wasn’t terribly impressed with the plot either. The main story is a pretty basic Chosen One wandering around and learning to be the Chosen One tale. There were a handful of side plots which I found more interesting, but in a 400 page book with one main plot and a half dozen side plots, it was hard to get too sucked by a minor story element. There just wasn’t enough room in this book to detail any of the potentially very interesting ideas in much depth. Overall, it felt like 800 pages worth of ideas crammed into a 400 page novel.

I’d recommend this book to readers who enjoy the prose of Philip K Dick or China Mieville, although the plot and characters don’t hold a candle to those two great authors.
Profile Image for Rae Lindenberg.
16 reviews25 followers
June 14, 2017
This book and I have a complicated relationship. I cannot even give the whole book three stars - although parts of the book deserve it, I suppose.

First things first, this novelist is clearly new and clearly trying to impress someone - I just don't know who. The superfluous language in this novel bogs down interesting moments with unnecessary vocab words that would have even a seasoned reader and above average linguistic enthusiast reaching for a dictionary on just about every page. (1. I know I contradict myself there by using superfluous, but that's exactly what it is and 2. I did take advantage and learn some new words - yay knowledge!) The bigger issue with that was the unnecessary words took away from the story. I had to backtrack and read several paragraphs over and over AND OVER again because his words twisted into a convoluted narrative that made it very hard to follow what he was getting at. I sometimes felt like Edison took a page out of Dickens to input words in there to make an extra nickel - however, I more felt like he was a writer looking to put big words into a big to make him sound smart. It didn't (it made him look silly) and it alienated his readers.

Secondly, the book jacket of this novel holds more promise than the novel itself. When you die you keep living different lives, keep dying until you reach the City Unspoken, where the dead come to die for the last time. Sounds interesting, right? However, vocab usage aside, the book decides to throw away an interesting premise in lieu of many silly and eye-rolling episodes that don't even fully connect or entice the reader to see what the outcome of each "episode" is. While there are some strong and interesting characters in this book, their lives and plot lines are often tossed to the side in favor of an overarching plot that doesn't fully make sense and a laughable villain that would make sci-fi porn watchers blush. A fairy that has made herself into a robot snake that's also half computer looking to control the world of the undying? Can't you just make her this badass god or fairy without adding any ridiculous tech elements into it? I found myself eye-rolling through her POV chapters because the character wasn't silly so much as nonsensical.

Not to mention the actually interesting characters: Sesstri, Asher, Purity, Oxnard, Nixon, and even sometimes Cooper when he wasn't being an idiot - not only have their POV chapters cut short, their plot lines eventually lead nowhere and seem like afterthoughts in the final 10 pages. You read the climax of the story and leave with a "that's it?" While other characters that seem to have nothing to do with the plot are given much more time than they EVER should: I'm looking at you Marvin, Lady of La Jocondette (aka Cleopatra - which is something I can't even get into here, there's isn't time or patience), and Hestor. You wound up being total wastes of time without being wholly interesting or three-dimensional.

I give it two stars because this book sits in a stew of potential - great promise with interesting characters and an interesting enough world to explore. The problem was, the author explored all the wrong things. The most interesting character's POV, Purity Kloo, living within the enclosed dome, winds up being completely unimportant to the overall plot. A disservice to not only the readers but Purity herself! What a waste. (Same goes for Nono - finally someone with some spunk and you kill her so soon!)

This book seemed like it wasn't done being edited. Like it needed at least another 6 rounds of rewrites. Whoever approved this as a final draft, did not bother to read the whole novel, I don't think. As someone who appreciates and expects good narrative structure to her fictional media, I was wholly disappointed.

I entirely wish that someone who take the premise of this novel, as well as the worthy characters (including Cooper, seeing as he ties the novel - and evidently the metaverses - together) and remake this into a TV series. (Although in a rewrite, for the love of God, make him more interesting and less of a Mary Sue. YES, he was a friggin' Mary Sue). I think it could benefit from that mode of storytelling with some SERIOUS alterations from the novel. I think it would be one of those rare examples where TV would do the premise a better justice than this clearly amateur novel.

Again, this book was not wholly bad - it was just, as I've said before, wasted potential and I finished the book just angry that I wasted 396 pages for very little payoff.

I am not even hiding this review, despite mild spoilers because I wouldn't encourage people to read this book. I wouldn't DIS-courage anyone from reading it, but I would give them a word of caution beforehand: prepare to be let down.

And finally - WHO OR WHAT THE EFF WAS OSEBO? You introduce a Hagrid-like, kind character into this mess for three pages and then drop him completely. I would have followed an entire novel with this character. I felt gipped!

Okay, rant over. Sorry, Edison. But this reads like a novel started out with good intentions and then finished at 5am the morning it was due. I've written those rushed papers before, dude, I know one when I see one. Also, dude - get rid of your thesaurus and learn to talk like a person. I like learning and exploring new words, but I highly doubt YOU knew half of the words you put in this novel.
Profile Image for Ints.
735 reviews72 followers
July 31, 2017
Nāve nav beigas, tā ir tikai jaunas dzīves sākums. Mums, kas piedzimuši ar nabu, tas nav īsti saprotams, jo esam dzimuši pirmo reizi. Pēc nāves seko atmošanās citā pasaulē, un šis cikls turpinās tik ilgi, līdz cilvēks nopelna savu Īsto nāvi. Pasauļu ir miljoniem un, lai ar katrs dzimst vien vienu reizi un mirst daudzreiz, galu gala viņš nonāk Nenosaucamajā pilsētā, kurā nomirst pa īstam. Šajā pilsētā mīt slepkavnieciski aristokrāti, feju princeses, nemirstīgas prostitūtas, eņģeļi, dievi un tie, kas izliekas par dieviem. Te ir atrodams itin viss. Taču ar tās galveno piedāvājumu – Īsto nāvi ir sākušās problēmas, cilvēki vairs nemirst.

Šajā pilsētā tad parādās Kūpers, dzimis Ņujorkietis un ne reizi nemiris. Nav jau tā, ka naba te būtu kāds brīnums, ne visi pirmo reizi piedzimst uz Zemes. Viņa pēkšņajai parādībai acīm redzot ir kāda nozīme. Par to liecina arī pilsētas vareno sarosīšanās. Sākumā pilsētas izpēte kopā ar Kūperi ir visnotaļ aizraujoša, centies visu saprastu un izpīpēt, kas ir kas. Ar kādu piecdesmito lapaspusi lasītājs sāks apjaust, ka nav vērts, autors visu laiku ievieš jaunus spēlētājus, kas maina notiekošā perspektīvu, un tu saproti, ka jālasa vien līdz pēdējai kaujai.

Pasaule ir interesanta, un iespējams, noslēpumu pārpilna. Var gadīties ka šī ir no tām grāmatām, kura jāizlasa vairākas reizes, lai visu saprastu. Taču tai ir viens mīnuss – grāmata ir pietiekoši garlaicīga, lai atturētu mani no tās pārlasīšanas. Arī noslēpumi nešķiet tik daudzsološi, lai to dēļ būtu vērts tērēt savu laiku vēlreiz. Kūpers kā galvenais varonis ir interesants tips, tagad jau bez gejiem nekas nenotiek. Nenosodu autoru par uzlēkšanu uz šī trenda, un sižetam ar’ tas neko nemaitā. Viņam nākas iziet standarta varoņa ceļu no nekā nesaprašanas līdz savas patiesās sūtības atklāšanai. Šī sūtības izvēršana gan autoram nav īsti padevusies, un lēciens notiek eksponenciāli. Iespējams, ka biju par dumju, lai visu metafiziku tur saprastu, bet esmu lasījis pietiekami daudz šādas grāmatas, lai man rastos aizdomas, ka tur vainojams autora pieredzes trūkums.

Bet nu arī pāris labi vārdi, autora valoda ir ļoti bagāta, un lasīt ir tīrais prieks. Tās nodaļas, kas saslēdzas ar lasītāju, ir vienkārši izcilas. Piemēram, par Purity, senas augstmaņu dzimtas pārstāvi pasaulē, kurā tevi var nogalināt, ja divas reizes uzvilksi vienu un to pašu kleitu. Nāve te, protams, nav nekas traks, jo augstmaņi ir piesaistīti savam ķermenim, un ar laiku viņi atgriezās. Viņas saskarsme ar īsto nāvi un tas, kā viņa atklāj savas pasaules patieso seju. Kūpers arī beigās izrādījās puika uz goda, liels mutes brūķētājs, bet savu darbiņu padarīja uz pirmo. Pasaule ir pārbāzta ar daudz interesantiem konceptiem, kuri lielākoties ir palikuši iedīgļu līmenī, iespējams, autors, lai saīsinātu grāmatu ir atturējies uz to izvēršanu. Paļaujoties uz “Kam ir acis, tie lai redz” konceptu.

Kas mani kaitināja, bija pēkšņā ļauno kiberfeju parādīšanās, tas bija kaut kāds vāks, ja tev pieder septiņi bezgalīgi multiversi, tad kāda jēga ir no astotā, ņemot vērā, ka feju karaliene pēc dimensijām nemaz nav tik liela, un viņas aizraušanās ar biokibertehnoloģijām paņem visu viņas laiku. Arī kā galvenā ļaunā viņa bija vairāk trakā zinātnieka tipa, kas ir pamatīgi pārlevelojusies pēdējai cīņai. Tad vēl visi tie Zemes tēli Kleopatra, Niksons un citi, ja ir miljoniem pasauļu, tad varbūtība šos sastapt ir visnotaļ maza. Vienu vārdu sakot, autors mīl piesaukt bezgalības, bet nepamana, ka tas stāstam piedod absurdumu.

Grāmatai lieku 7 no 10 ballēm. Lasīt vietām ir garlaicīgi, pāris reizes pat noliku malā un iespējams, ka nemaz neatsāktu lasīt, ja vien nebūtu principi. Beigas bija pārāk triviālas un standarta šai nestandarta pasaulei.
Profile Image for Anya.
763 reviews168 followers
December 6, 2014
The Waking Engine by David Edison is one of the most original sci-fi/fantasy stories I’ve read in a long time. From the intriguing premise of a city where immortals come to die, to the beautifully descriptive writing, to the full cast of very diverse characters, The Waking Engine is a book you need time and concentration to fully enjoy but you probably won’t regret it! I do need to note immediately that there is adult content in this one in terms of language (f-bombs and other offensive terms), some sexually explicit scenes, and a fair amount of gore (though not more than I could handle).

Note: I received an eARC of The Waking Engine through Netgalley for an honest review. Some things may be different in the final version.

Warning: This book has adult content.

On Starships and Dragonwings Button

The Waking Engine by David Edison
Published by Tor Books on Feb. 11th, 2014
Genres: Adult, Dark Fantasy, Sci-fi
Length: 400 pages
How I got my copy: NetGalley

Welcome to the City Unspoken, where Gods and Mortals come to die.

Contrary to popular wisdom, death is not the end, nor is it a passage to some transcendent afterlife. Those who die merely awake as themselves on one of a million worlds, where they are fated to live until they die again, and wake up somewhere new. All are born only once, but die many times . . . until they come at last to the City Unspoken, where the gateway to True Death can be found.

Wayfarers and pilgrims are drawn to the City, which is home to murderous aristocrats, disguised gods and goddesses, a sadistic faerie princess, immortal prostitutes and queens, a captive angel, gangs of feral Death Boys and Charnel Girls . . . and one very confused New Yorker.

Late of Manhattan, Cooper finds himself in a City that is not what it once was. The gateway to True Death is failing, so that the City is becoming overrun by the Dying, who clot its byzantine streets and alleys . . . and a spreading madness threatens to engulf the entire metaverse.

The first and most awesome thing to me about The Waking Engine is the City Unspoken itself. It is a city where all citizens of the metaverse generally end up eventually and Edison managed to bring to life a place that I honestly believe captures that essence. My favorite part of the first half of The Waking Engine was the description of various different districts in the city because, whoa, they were different than anything I’ve ever imagined (and I’ve read a lot of spec fic!).
The writing in The Waking Engine is freaking epic. Edison has a mastery over words far beyond what I’ve encountered recently.
The whole premise of The Waking Engine (and the plot that unfolds) blew my mind by its creativity. The Waking Engine fully lived up to the awesomeness promised in the premise.
I looooooved the metaverse that The Waking Engine described, partially because it pulls from some of my favorite string theory and partially because it’s just so sci-fi awesome :D. There are pocket universes!! Science and magic are intertwined :D.
The villain is creeeeeeeeepy. There were also a couple of layers of “villains” in that there are several entities trying to do various things in The Waking Engine so the final battle was kind of entertaining when everyone clashed, haha. I love the depth that this adds to the plot and characters, though, woot.
The main character is gay! And not in a “insert diversity here” kind of way that he immediately jumps up and down and declares his sexuality. It was subtle enough at first that I doubted myself. I absolutely love that I’ve finally found a traditionally published spec-fic book that just casually throws in a gay MC, because it’s not a big deal :D.
You know I love me some plot twists and The Waking Engine does not disappoint! I definitely didn’t see that ending coming *swoons*. I also rarely like epilogues, but The Waking Engine pulled off a great epilogue!

Holy adult content Batman! I’m fine with reading the f-word in books, but I know a lot of people are bothered by derogatory words for gay people and there is some of that as well (used by a side character who certainly would use that language, it’s just not fun to read sometimes). Also there are some sex scenes that have some triggery stuff and are between the main character and another guy, which I expect will bother some people. (Note: I’m happy the author included these sex scenes where appropriate, but I realize that it’ll be an issue for some people.)
At points the adult content seemed to go beyond what was really necessary for the story and character development into crudeness. There were also a couple of male-gaze-y scenes that made me frown. I appreciate darker elements, but there was just times that it went a bit too far for my reading comfort.
You need a freaking dictionary to read The Waking Engine. I definitely was not 100% familiar with at least 5 words used several times in this one. This is good in some ways, but it got to the point that I was losing understanding (and didn’t want to have to actually pull up a dictionary).
The Waking Engine is definitely a slower book with a rather languid pacing. I loved the descriptions, but it made the plot drag for a while. You have to be prepared to invest a fair amount of time into this one to really enjoy it I think.

I honestly was a little terrified to write this review (and it took me a while), because I just don’t feel like I can capture the essence of The Waking Engine in 1,000 words. If creepy, adult content, sci-fi/fantasy crossover, and descriptive are adjectives you like in your books, then you must pick up The Waking Engine. It isn’t for the faint of heart, and it isn’t a fast read, but if you are looking for something new that will stick with you for a long time, this is the book you’ve been looking for.
Profile Image for Bryan Camp.
Author 6 books122 followers
July 10, 2019
This book is wild. Wildly ambitious, wildly inventive, and just full on wild. It starts with the premise that death is not the end of your journey but the beginning of an existence that spans a multiverse of worlds. That's where this book *starts.* Magic is real. So is so-impossible-it-looks-like-magic-technology. Otherworldly beings, check. Undead wizards, check. Richard Nixon reincarnated in a child's body, check. A massive beast floating through a sea made of skies, carrying a city on its back, check. A villain pulled straight from the final boss fight of a Final Fantasy game, check.

This book is not an easy read, both in terms of its demands on the reader's engagement and in its focus on existential dread. But it is a rewarding one, and I'm glad I finally picked it up. Definitely looking forward to whatever comes next.
Profile Image for Linda Robinson.
Author 4 books134 followers
December 10, 2018
Galloping good. The characters are rich, entwined in the story like Alouette's red ribbon. The red ribbon is a thing, along with a cacophony of other things. Cooper - poor turd Cooper - opens his eyes in not the same place he closed those peepers. And we're off. Asher, Sesstri, Nixon, Marvin, Cooper galumph through the streets of The City Unspoken. Purity, NiNi and NoNo with Bitsy, tea and pose in The Dome, wherein our wretched nobles dismember each other for perceived fashion faux pas. Undead Boys and Charnel Girls. Cicatrix and her hellish daughters. Lich lords and kajillion year old queens. This debut answers the not-oft-asked question: what would it be like if you couldn't die? Edison writes horror, comedy, philosophy, and apocalyptic grim with swashbuckling skill. Not for the faint of mind, or the feint of spirit.
Profile Image for Nick Coster.
1 review
March 28, 2020
I tried. I really tried to like this book. The idea had so much promise, but it felt like I had landed in the middle of a Netflix series where I had missed the first 2 seasons. Yes, there was a character that led us through the initial discoveries, but he had no discernible back story. The main characters as the mulligan was just confusing.

I couldn’t finish. I threw the book away. I NEVER throw books away.
Profile Image for Carrie Mansfield .
392 reviews16 followers
January 14, 2014
An ARC was provided through NetGalley in exchange for fair review.

I almost don’t know where to begin with a book like this. Should I start with the gorgeous, almost literary-novel style of writing that invokes a dream-like trance from the get-go? Or the imagery that is gorgeous yet horrifying at the same time? Or what about the intricate world-building where the smallest details bear more signs of thought and creativity than some entire books enjoy? Or the maturity of the title that goes beyond simple “adult” tropes of violence, language and sex (though those too exist?)

If it isn’t already apparent, I am in awe of this book. So rarely do I stumble across something this unique, this lovingly crafted. All too often, even the best of sci-fi/fantasy can feel familiar, and a good tweak to the familiar tropes can feel refreshing. This though? This feels new. Even the parts that seem familiar still feel refreshingly overhauled.

This is a novel about death and Death. Death being the True Death, that, just as the version in True Blood implies, means a permanent and lasting finality from which there is no recovery. In the universe of this book, we all die. We are all reborn. And so we live countless lives until ending up in the City Unspoken, where the story goes, those who have earned salvation will be allowed to finally Die and end their existence. But then people stop Dying and instead start going insane.It’s up to Cooper, a New Yorker caught up in the madness, to figure out what is going on and to try and stop it.

I really enjoyed Cooper as a protagonist. We spend the first part of the book almost in his shoes, just trying to get our bearings in a world of which we know nothing and seems crazier (and creepier) the more we get to know it. Then, as he gains his footing so too comes back hints of the man Cooper must have been in his life back on Earth, complete with a full on New York attitude. He feels so ordinary and Edison constructs his introduction to the City Unspoken so well that you pull for him because you want to see him regain control of his life, such as it now stands. He’s hardly the only interesting character in this play, however. Purity Kloo, the daughter of the Circle Unspoken gives us insight into those trapped inside the Dome and represents the inherent corruption of power. We have the antagonist, the Cicatrix, a truly horrifying creation and her daughter Llalowë who is no less sadistic and well on her to becoming as crazy as her mother. We meet reincarnations of Cleopatra and Walt Whitman, who are recognizable, yet tweaked so that their placement in the world fits and is fitting of their current existence.

This is a book I hesitate to speak too much more about when it comes to the plot, because it really should be experienced as if you are Cooper and learning what the City Unspoken’s secrets are for yourself. It’s a book that is meant to be savored and not downed in a single gulp. I fully admit that when I first started reading this book, I’d stop every so often and bookmark bits and pieces that caught my eye. It’s a book I’d read bits and pieces of and digest and then come back for more.

Overall, this is one of those books that is written so well, and so creative in its world that I think it’s a book I’d ultimately recommend to anyone I know that loves books, regardless of whether or not they normally read in this genre. Creativity on this level is simply a rare and precious thing these days, and we need to let publishers know that we value it so they continue to invest in authors like Mr. Edison.

Verdict: Buy it. Books this well written and creative just don’t come along often. Though we aren’t even two weeks into the year, I will be very surprised if this doesn’t make it onto my best of 2014

Crossposted from my blog here: http://gildedlady.wordpress.com/2014/...
Profile Image for Lori L (She Treads Softly) .
2,264 reviews87 followers
January 25, 2014
The Waking Engine by David Edison is recommended for fans of China Miéville New Crobunza series.

What is death? Cooper wakes up to find himself in the City Unspoken, the place where people truly come to die. He is shocked to discover that death isn't final. When you die you move on and awaken someplace else, another world, another city. He's told upon awakening, "When we die, we don’t cease to exist or turn into shimmering motes of ectoplasm or purple angels or anything else you may have been brought up to believe. We just . . . go on living. Someplace else." So... you live and die, then wake somewhere new. You live more, die again, then wake once more in another place. You can return to life older, younger or the same age, but you will return and you will be the same person.

While Cooper is trying to wrap his head around this fact that reincarnation is real, he also learns that he is unusual for two reasons. First he has come to The City Unspoken right after his first death. Most people arrive at the City Unspoken when it is their true time to die. The gateway to death is here. Second, Cooper has a belly button. He may be the only person who was dead who has one. The belly button is a scare, and scares are erased when you start your new life.

Clearly, something is not working as it should and that something may be the gateway to Death.

I was anxious to read The Waking Engine because it is described as being part of the new weird steampunk-influenced writing style, akin to that of China Miéville. Edison's writing did remind me of Miéville's fictional New Crobuzon in many ways. I thought the writing was excellent. Any issues I had were more with the plot and what felt like excessive additions to the narrative. In the end I thought the plot could have used a bit more consolidation of main themes and a few less tangents off into exploration of the city and its inhabitants. This may be a good example why Miéville wrote several books featuring New Crobuzon because the story was too big and lavish for just one book.

Make a note that this does contain adult themes, content, and graphic violence that did become a bit too much for me.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Tom Doherty Associates via Netgalley for review purposes.

Profile Image for Jacqie.
1,613 reviews75 followers
February 27, 2014
This was a very intriguing book, but I didn't have what it takes to finish it right now, being sick and not at the top of my game.

It's a very New Weird feeling book- China Mieville fans, take note! The reader is thrown along with the main character into a very strange city, with strange, scary inhabitants. Our main character, Cooper, is informed that he died back in New York City but that death is only the beginning. All individuals die and return on different worlds many times until they come to our city, where some can finally earn Final Death and rest at last. Life is seen as long and wearisome. Cooper has come to this city far sooner than he probably should have, probably because he's meant to do something big, but those who rescue him quickly grow tired and disillusioned with him and abandon him in the city. And we are readers are abandoned too, to try to make sense of a vast and dreamlike setting.

I did feel that I was reading about a dream through most of the book- everything felt surreal and strange, and I couldn't find my footing. The imagery is awesome, and the ideas I could make sense of (a museum/mausoleum where religions go to die) made me want to contemplate them a bit more. But I also felt yanked around, from POV to POV without enough time anywhere to gain understanding, and with no values placed on anything or anyone.

Ultimately, I couldn't find enough of a foothold to finish this book- maybe I gave up too early, about 70 pages in.

However, I'll definitely keep this author on my radar. I'd like to see what else he can do. His setting and ideas are awesome, but I couldn't attach to this set of character or find a plot.
Profile Image for Peter.
582 reviews19 followers
October 21, 2017
Everything people on Earth believe about death is wrong. When you die, you instead wake up in a new body on one of a million other worlds, and again, and again, some magical, some scientific, many filled with both the resurrected and people who were born to that world. Only in a few places can true death be found, when you've completed your journey. One of these is the City Unspoken, filled with gods and faeries and undead, and now, one very confused New Yorker who woke up there, and seems to be the center of the plans of a lot of different groups.

I should start this review with a bit of a disclaimer that I have an iffy relationship with fantasy, particularly in novel form. I like it in theory, but in practice elements of it tend to sour the experience unless really done well, tropes sometimes get overdone, or the use of 'magic' as an explanation for too much feels like a cheat. I tend to avoid outright fantasy, except in a few cases (where it involves normal people travelling to fantasy worlds and interesting afterlife scenarios are among those that might make me more likely to dip in). So I may unintentionally be harder on fantasy books than others, and that may be at play here. And, to be honest, I found myself skimming a bit more than usual in this book, whether because the story couldn't hold my attention or if I was just reading it at a particularly distractable mental state I can't say, but I may have missed points that would have solved some of my issues.

My first thought was that the author set up a really compelling afterlife scenario and, to a certain extent, the worldbuilding beyond it. I loved the idea at least of death transporting you to a new world (where you're still almost always permanently separated from everyone you ever knew, so it's still a tragedy), and to a certain extent the city itself had some really cool elements, like the aesthetics and things built out of dead body parts (because whether people achieved their True Death or just an ordinary, world-jumping death, the bodies left behind can be made useful), or the debutante ladies of an aristocracy, bound by magic to return in the same place if they die, committing murder over small errors of fashion, or fae queens augmenting themselves with cybernetics and other technology. My biggest complaint, on a technical level, was that everyone spoke English, except when they put in a Latin or French expression or a single word of Swedish or something like that, or used a turn of phrase that only makes sense for people from Earth or who had extensive contact with them rather than it just being one of millions of worlds (there's a brief mention of Earth being one of the more influential worlds but not enough about how or why). In TV, I allow "universal translator" type situations to go unremarked, but I expect a little more from my books, and I hoped that at least some explanation would come, even if it was some flavor of "magic", at least TELL me it's magic and a little about how it works (do people who lived all their lives in China hear people speaking in idioms in their own language, for example?).

The broader storytelling problems are a bigger issue, though. In some ways I feel the author got too ambitious. With such an afterlife scenario, millions of worlds, arriving at the world where people typically "end" their journey seemed like a bit of a cheat, or at least a waste, like if Doctor Who had Ian and Barbara's first ride on the TARDIS land them on Gallifrey where the Doctor had to answer for his TARDIS-stealing and time-shenanigans... with all of time and space promised, I'd have loved to see more of the journey! But even starting at the City Unspoken could be okay, except I feel too much is going on in the plot, too many groups and not enough time really getting into the issues. I feel like the author knew how all of this fit together but didn't entirely make it clear. For example, it's a setting where death is not the end... with certain magics, you don't even travel anywhere else, your body just repairs itself and you come back... and yet 'undeath' is also a thing (a thing that seems far too much like out of a D&D book), and I never really felt like I understood what the key difference between undeath and just coming back to life was, why people wanted undeath, what the rules were, or anything. A lot of the plot beats I felt like things worked just because it was in the outline, and for quite a few things I had only the slightest idea of what had happened at all, just that somebody was defeated or rescued or a city changed forever. Again, maybe I was too distractable while reading this, but a much simpler story would have been far more impactful for me... if you strip the plot description down to bare bones and eliminate side trips, it's almost something I could see really enjoying.

One of the things that suffered because of the overcomplicated plot, and also in some ways contributed to it, were the characters. Too many characters are secretly other important characters, or related to other characters, or some historical figure... some of these are telegraphed pretty far in advance, others seem to come as last minute 'cool twists', but it happens too many times that the impact was lost. And as for the main character? He whipsawed between being a dumbass, a smartass, and a badass, without any of it feeling earned or organic, he just seemed like an empty vessel that the author poured plot into without having much of a distinctive character of his own. Part of it was the big problem of making him a huge chosen one with weird powers including the ability to hear thoughts to a degree... he was supposed to be an ordinary New Yorker who suddenly woke up (like everyone does after their first death) in confusion on another world, I wanted the normalcy as an anchor in this strange world, instead of 'bland guy thrust into fantasy world who also starts developing magical powers and a destiny where he's super super important to the grand scheme of the metaverse for some reason.') Not all stories have to revolve around the fate of billions, some are better as just adventures.

On the whole, the book wasn't horrible, there were some nice images and ideas and that was enough to mildly entertain me, and I think the author shows talent that could be developed into something really good, but it just didn't satisfy me.
Profile Image for Lisa.
346 reviews536 followers
January 25, 2014
Full review: http://tenaciousreader.wordpress.com/...

After reading The Waking Engine by David Edison, I’ve decided Edison is an absolute artist with words. I love his descriptions that eloquently describe haunting images. This is what drew me into the book. What surprised me as I read further, is that there is a touch more strangeness and over-the-topness to the characters and world than I initially expected. It made me feel like I was reading a dark literary comic book featuring the fae. If that even makes sense. And that’s not at all a bad thing, it was just unexpected. Unexpected can be quite good.
Profile Image for Samantha.
623 reviews95 followers
July 7, 2014
"Cooper wakes up somewhere that isn't Earth, a place that holds the dead. In this mysterious city, he learns that people don't truly die, or at least not for a very long time, but rather keep waking up in different worlds over and over. Navigating this new place isn't easy, especially when it seems like everyone wants something. As chaos ensues among the 'living', Cooper has to figure out what his new life exactly is." Full review at Fresh Fiction: http://freshfiction.com/review.php?id...
Profile Image for Natalie.
156 reviews2 followers
February 1, 2016
This book took way to long to finish... And for virtually no payoff at the end. The author uses words strangely and writes way too much "description" without really ever describing anything at all. He could have benefitted from an editor. The concept was great, but I really feel the book never took it to its full potential. Don't bother reading this.
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