Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

The God Engines

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

136 pages, Hardcover

First published December 1, 2009

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

John Scalzi

159 books21.7k followers
John Scalzi, having declared his absolute boredom with biographies, disappeared in a puff of glitter and lilac scent.

(If you want to contact John, using the mail function here is a really bad way to do it. Go to his site and use the contact information you find there.)

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
1,410 (19%)
4 stars
2,589 (36%)
3 stars
2,219 (31%)
2 stars
667 (9%)
1 star
181 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 767 reviews
Profile Image for Patrick.
Author 64 books231k followers
January 27, 2015
Holy shit, this was a good book.

I've known about this book for quite some time, I've even owned a copy for years. But it wasn't until today that I actually took a crack at it.

I've been enjoying novellas and short novels a lot lately. Bite sized audio books are easier on my brain when I'm trying to get serious writing done. Though this audio bookwas only 3 hours long, I was hoping it would last me a couple of days as I listened to it in bits and pieces while I cooked, puttered around the house, or exercised.

No such luck. It got it hooks into me and I listen to the whole thing tonight, despite my best intentions.

So... Yeah. If book 3 ends up being released a couple hours later than you'd like, you can blame John Scalzi for that.

Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,860 reviews1,903 followers
February 28, 2017
Rating: 4.5 horrified, terrified, vindicated stars of five

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

My Review: The Power of God...the Power of Faith...these are concrete, actual things, not powerless mouthings, in John Scalzi's 136-page gut-punch and goolie-kick of a novella. Captain Ean Tephe, commanding the Righteous, is fresh from a stinging defeat (in his mind) that, in the view of his superiors, is a victory so signal that he's summoned to HQ and given the most astonishing order: Go to a planet of those who have not heard of Our Lord, convert them, and offer the nourishment of their worship to Our Lord in this difficult war we're waging against the gods whose brother-gods are enslaved as the star drives of the Faithful.

He does. The scene that follows is so revolting, so truly disturbing, and so exactly what I believe to be the case regarding religion, that I wasn't at all sure which of my equally strong emotional responses to give pride of place to.

The last words on p136 are: "Pray," he said.

Excellent advice. Won't help, but it's still excellent advice.

It took about three hours for this book to enthrall, fascinate, frighten, and disgust me. I'm left, here at the end of the experience, wondering what is to become of me now. How will I find a story that will help me feel clean and whole in my bruised and abused mind again? What balm can be applied to a beaten psyche? I was never the most chirpily sanguine of men, I truly always believed that humanity was made up of scum, pond scum, and scum-sucking pond scum, then below that conservatives.

And now that seems the most giddily upbeat and Pollyanna-ish codswallop. Scalzi has stared unflinchingly into the black heart of reality, the place that Lovecraft was scared to go, and brought back this eyewitness account.

Lift your snouts from the trough, humans! This is exactly where you're headed if you don't side-step now!

How lonely John Scalzi must be, having that one eye in this kingdom of the blind.

I don't remember which of the Axis of Evil boys convinced me I had to read this, but you did me a good turn: I finally know of someone who makes me look optimistic about humanity!
Profile Image for Dan Schwent.
2,888 reviews10.5k followers
December 15, 2011
"It was time to whip the god." Thus begins The God Engines by John Scalzi.

Captain Tephe is ordered to humanity's homeworld, Bishop's Call, and tasked to bring the faith of Our Lord to a faithless world. But will his own fate be tested?

That's about as much summary as I can give without giving away too much of the plot. The universe John Scalzi creates in The God Engines is like no others. Humanity travels the stars in ships powered by imprisoned and tortured gods, ruled by the one god that conquered them all. While on the surface a space opera with some Lovecraftian overtones, The God Engines is really an exploration of faith.

Captain Tephe is a conflicted character, the perfect lead in a story like this. His relationship with the ship's rook was well done, as was his interactions with the other crew members, especially the priest and the first mate. I hate to admit it but I was really surprised at what happened Cthicx and the shit storm that resulted.

As I said before, the society presented in The God Engines is a pretty novel one and presents a lot of interesting ideas. I'd be very interested to read more stories set in this universe. The God Engines gets one of the easiest fives I've ever awarded. Once again, I'm convinced The Scalz can do no wrong.

Profile Image for Heidi The Reader.
1,372 reviews1,418 followers
July 28, 2021
In the world of The God Engines, beings called gods power the ships that take humanity between the stars. How the world became this way is not for Captain Tephe to question, instead it is a matter of faith.

As part of Tephe's service and devotion to his own deity, he has to keep the being that powers his engine in check and subservient to his will.

That is not a simple task.

"I do not know why this is. Why single made iron can kill a god. I know only that it can. I know the gods fear death more than do men. I can kill you with this, god." pg 8, ebook

When Tephe is called to perform a secret mission of great importance for his deity, it throws his entire world view in jeopardy. He discovers his god, and all the others, may not be what they appeared to be.

"Words. They have power. To name a god is to give it power. To deny it such is to take it." pg 16, ebook

I feel like this story was too short to fulfill its full potential. The general idea was very promising - what would a world where embodied gods were used as power sources look like? How would the society be structured? And how would a worshiper's faith change or be challenged through day-to-day interactions with the gods?

The plot felt rushed as the characters raced from one place to another. I also wanted a bit more background about the universe of The God Engines, but the lack of it added somewhat to the mystery of the story.

"You are charged with silence," proclaimed the third Bishop. "What is spoken to you here is not to be spoken again, on remit of your soul." pg 31, ebook

I think the strength of this story is in how it addresses faith. Faith in the goodness of the unseen shapes lives and guides actions. It explains why some gods power ships and others rule empires. Because of faith, humanity has waged wars and conquered planets.

Perhaps someone should have made certain this faith wasn't misplaced...

Recommended for readers who enjoy short science fiction novels with a liberal dash of horror.
Profile Image for Sandi.
510 reviews275 followers
December 29, 2010
I really like John Scalzi's books. Although they aren't great literature, they have been reliably entertaining. So, I was delighted to find a copy of The God Engines at my public library. From the get-go, I didn't like this novella at all. At 130-odd pages, including pictures and blank pages, I should have been able to blast through it in a day--maybe two given the busy holiday season. I didn't like the tone or the setting of the novel. I thought the characters were too flat. It lacked Scalzi's usual humor. I couldn't tell whether he was trying to make a philosophical statement about religion, or if he was just using it as a vehicle for his story. I found it to be extremely sexist, especially with the Rookery.

I'm really sad that I didn't like this book because I was looking forward to reading it. Hopefully, Scalzi's next book will be a return to his usual entertaining fare.
Profile Image for Peter Tillman.
3,532 reviews306 followers
July 2, 2021
John Scalzi tried something different with this novella. He calls it dark fantasy, but it's really more science-fantasy -- the action is largely aboard an FTL starship, and the setting is an interstellar religious empire. The title is literally true -- I'm treading lightly here to avoid spoilers. The empire is ruled by the Bishopry Militant, an unsavory theocracy, and the religious supernatural is at the heart of the tale.

"The God Engines" is a story along the lines of Harlan Ellison's "The Deathbird," although it's less directly tied to Christianity than Ellison's classic. Scalzi does some very effective society and religion-building here. His writing is as good as ever, the tale moves along briskly, sex, violence and spaceship battles are featured. The story becomes darker with each revelatory twist, and ends up very dark and bloody indeed. Recommended, with a caveat for the easily-squicked. I'd be surprised if Scalzi doesn't revisit* this intriguing new universe.
*As of 2021, he hasn't, and it seems likely to remain a one-off. The tale held up well to rereading -- but I prefer his current style, and presume he does too. Which likely sells better, too.

My 2o10 review, at one time my highest-rated review at Amazon:
95 people liked it!
Review first published at SF Site, 2009
Profile Image for Helen.
43 reviews
May 7, 2012
I love John Scalzi and this may be the best thing I ever read from him. Extremely dark and combining elements of both science fiction and fantasy, Scalzi has created a completely unique universe in which shackled gods and religious fanatics battle it out. That is, until they realize that there is something far worse than either of them waiting to devour them, quite literally. I didn't know JS could write this dark, but I hope he creates additional stories in this universe.
Profile Image for Stephen.
1,517 reviews10.8k followers
October 18, 2010
6.0 stars. This story was AMAZING and has immediately jumped onto my list of "All Time Favorite" stories. For fans of John Scalzi's other work, of which I include myself, this is a significant departure in so far as this is a much darker story. The opening line of the novella really sets the tone for the whole story ("It was time to whip to god"), and I was taken in by it and read it basically in a single sitting (not tough as it is only 136 pages).

I won't give a detailed synopsis as the book description and some other reviews do a good job of that. I will say that this book tackles some serious issues of belief, faith and the nature of the universe. A truly spectacular piece of fiction and I hope that Mr. Scalzi will write future stories set in this universe.

Nominee: Hugo Award for Best Novella (2010)
Nominee: Nebula Award for Best Novella (2010)
Profile Image for Kara Babcock.
1,903 reviews1,232 followers
July 30, 2010
The God Engines opens with what, along with the opening line of JPod, is now one of my favourite first lines: "It was time to whip the god."

Immediately, John Scalzi establishes a sense of difference between our universe and the one in which this book is set. In this universe, monolatrism is the order of the day. Captain Tephe and the crew of the Righteous worship a god, conveniently called "Our Lord." Captured gods serve as engines for their starships; bound by iron, the gods warp space-time to deliver ships to their destinations.

What a twist on religion and one's relationship with one's god! Faith quite literally empowers gods—this is not a new idea, but turning captive gods into starship engines is pretty nifty. And Scalzi uses the situation to write all sorts of interesting conversations between Tephe and the god that powers the Righteous, mostly about the nature of faith, gods, and one's devotion to one's god.

The most interesting motif of The God Engines is faith. Not only does faith empower gods, but it comes in various flavours of diminished quality. Tephe's faith is the weakest, for it has been handed down to him over the generators. By contrast, "first-made faith" of new converts is the strongest. And with several gods aiming to take a bite out of His Lord, Tephe is sent to a planet untouched by gods and ignorant of the theological conflict taking place in the universe at large.

The idea that converts are more fanatically devout in their belief makes sense. Theirs is a raw belief, one that inspired them to choose to worship their god. Believers who were raised (or indoctrinated) to believe, on the other hand, do it by rote. Many of them are devout, but their minds have been moulded into faithfulness not by a god, but by a parent.

Considering the somewhat predictable twist that leads into a downer ending, it would be easy to label The God Engines anti-religious in nature. After all, it portrays gods as capricious creatures who essentially enslave societies. Science and engineering have been erased, replaced with faith-on-demand. It's not that Tephe and his people use gods to power starships because that is a superior form of power—it's because they know of no other way, although such ways do exist. That deception on the part of His Lord is an essential part of Tephe's crisis of faith, which ultimately demonstrates that this book isn't about religion at all, and thus isn't anti-religious. It's all about faith.

Let us not conflate the two, for although religion often involves faith, faith does not always mean religion. The religious parts of the society in this book are dismal, almost dystopian. The rulers are called the Bishopry Militant, a terrible juxtaposition of two authoritarian terms. Although it does not come up per se, we get the idea that this is not the sort of society that kindly tolerates freedom of expression. Blasphemy is high on the list of forbidden acts. Obedience is the second-most prized virtue, especially from ship captains. The most-prized virtue, of course, is faith.

If religion is the stern, morally-hidebound uncle who's no fun at family reunions, faith is the spunky cousin everyone loves, even though she makes everyone just a little bit uncomfortable. Faith is the more fervent sibling of confidence; they are really the same feeling, only one is reserved for special occasions. What Scalzi does is literalize what we all, internally, understand about faith, because we all have faith in something, even if we are not religious. And faith, true faith, that unconditional and utter belief, is powerful. It can capture the imagination, inspire acts of unfathomable beauty or untenable ugliness, and result in the most amazing events. We have fought wars because of faith. We went to the moon because of faith. So in that context, using faith to power a starship is not all that strange.

And in the darkest hour, after Tephe has learned the awful truth, what sustains him? What gives him the ability to keep going, knowing that he and his crew are doomed? Well, super-sleuth that you are, guessed it: faith. For the sake of spoilers, I won't say faith in what. Maybe one's god, maybe one's humanity, or maybe just faith in some generic sense. But it's enough to keep Tephe going even in the face of certain destruction.

Lest I mislead you in my positive discussion of the Power of Faith, let me be clear: this is not a warm-fuzzy book. Without going into detail, there is not much Happily Ever After happening here. The God Engines is about terrible revelation and unrecoverable betrayal. And maybe it could have gone differently for Tephe and the Righteous. Part of me wishes it did, of course.

There is an intriguing sense of minimalism about The God Engines. As a novella, it is short, and Scalzi wastes no time in crafting a tantalizing glimpse at this world. It left me wanting more, and that frustrated me for a time. Then I realized I was being silly: books should leave you wanting more (in a good, curious way). So the more I consider it, the more I feel that a novella suits this story.

Sometimes the plot is rushed. Once the Righteous arrives at the untouched planet, it takes no time at all for the story to skip to the conversion of one of its tribes. Another story, another writer, might have drawn this out, added characters and relationships, really turned this into a novel. And if I were being lazy, I could call this poor writing and call it a day, review over.

But then I would be ignoring the fact that Scalzi chose to write this as a novella. That is what I mean by minimialism. He intended these elisions, and they are as integral to the book as the commentary on faith.

The only place where The God Engines suffers as a result is its characterization, which is lacking. None of the characters truly stand out in my mind as three-dimensional. But as fans of the short story know, length is not a necessary condition for good characterization—but sometimes it can make poor characterization a little more adequate. Tephe, Andso, and Shalle are all fairly stock roles with fairly conventional relationships. As much as I enjoyed reading The God Engines, I keep coming back to this flaw; it is all the more glaring for everything else that is right about this book.

Some books are like that: one small detail mars the rest. Some books can bear the flaw, others unravel . . . The God Engines survives, but only just. Only because, for some reason, I managed to see its potential, if not its actuality. And so even though it did not quite deliver, I still had faith.

Creative Commons License
Profile Image for Beth Tabler.
Author 5 books155 followers
April 1, 2020
"It is time to whip a God," John Scalzi wrote in this Hugo Award-nominated novella, The God Engines. The God Engines, is a lot of things. Dark and cruel, fantasy, horror, and religion all blended in a twisted story of power from a writer customarily known for his charm and humor. But this, this is Scalzi out of his usual comfort zone. There is no charm or humor in this story. This is him reaching into the darker parts of his storytelling ability and bringing forth the cruel and worm filled and serving it on a silver platter.

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

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

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

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

You can see where the story is going.

Scalzi has crafted a story here that integrates faith and what religion is and how it is interpreted. Who is a god? Is a god one who has more power than another? Are humans Gods to ants? If you are looking at a deity, and consequently whipping them, what is faith then? It is an exciting thought. Maybe the "gods" are not gods, but other extraterrestrial beings, and this is a war for power, with humans as pawns. Scalzi touches on many of these in this tight novella. The plot moves at a brisk pace and keeps the reader engaged. I would have loved for this to have been written as a full novel, as backstory and dialog could be explored more. But as at stands, this is quite an engaging read. Well worth the nomination it received. It goes to show you that Scalzi is not a one-trick pony. He can write both the dark and light of fantasy.
Profile Image for Kat  Hooper.
1,582 reviews396 followers
January 12, 2011
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

Ean Tephe, captain of the Righteous, is a man of great faith. In fact, it’s the faith of Tephe and his crew that keeps Righteous running — it gives power to their god, enabling him to enslave the captured god which powers the spaceship. Somehow, the “defiled” god, like all the conquered gods that run the spaceships in Tephe’s land, are able to swallow light-years of space to transport their crews wherever they need to go. When Captain Tephe and his crew are sent on a missionary journey to proselytize a new planet and their god engine starts to act up, Tephe’s suddenly in danger of losing his religion.

The God Engines, which I listened to on audio (Brilliance Audio) narrated by Christopher Lane, has a tantalizing premise and some appealing characters. I liked Captain Ean Tephe, his capable first mate, and Shalle, the woman who “nurtures the faith” of the officers. The vicious and angry god who is chained to Righteous was truly frightening (Lane’s creepy voice amplified this). The plot, which is slow at the beginning, rapidly speeds up at the end (this is only 3 hours on audio) and becomes intense, scary, twisty, and surprising.

Perhaps it was John Scalzi’s intention, but I never felt comfortable reading The God Engines. My first problem is that it’s closer to horror than science-fantasy. The plot is unpleasant all the way through and it lacks any of Scalzi’s well-known humor or lightness. I was tense and unsettled the whole time I was listening. I realize that this is personal problem, of course, and many readers will appreciate this unexpected darkness from John Scalzi.

My second issue is that The God Engines is simply too short for what it tries to do. I enjoy reading novellas, but they tend to work better when the setting is already familiar, either because they’re set in our own world or in a world the author has explored before. This world, which is entirely new for Scalzi’s readers, was just starting to feel real and I was just settling into it by the time the story was over. Similarly, the idea of blindly worshiping a god whose character you’re unsure of is tantalizing (though not original), but the surface of this concept was merely scratched and I wasn’t given enough time to deeply consider how this would play out in this world. Likewise, the importance and pitfalls of faith were just beginning to be explored.

The ending of The God Engines felt arbitrary and unsatisfying. Scalzi abandoned his characters, world, ideas, and story, just as he was getting going. It’s nice to see John Scalzi trying something new, but I can’t help but wonder if maybe he didn’t like it either.
Profile Image for David.
Author 17 books334 followers
August 17, 2020
I'd leave this classified as "science fiction," but it's really science fiction/dark fantasy/horror. In this novella, starships are powered by enslaved gods, there's a slightly Lovecraftian vibe to the story, and the ending is something out of a John Carpenter movie.

It's an entertaining, slightly weird page-turner, and I loved the dark fantasy/sci-fi setting right up until the ending, which I found both predictable and a bit rushed.
Profile Image for Matt.
164 reviews5 followers
February 5, 2018
I'm really quite disappointed with this book.
I'm a big Scalzi fan. I appreciate how fun his stories are, how engaging his characters are and how brilliant his dialogue is.
However, this didn't feel like a Scalzi book.
To begin with, the story started off really slow (which is unlike Scalzi and especially detrimental considering its such a short read) and the dialogue sounded really false.

Undeniably the story picked up and was enjoyable at one stage, but it felt like it came to late to save what was a disappointing read.

Out of many Scalzi novels, this is the first to have let me down. We can't all be perfect.
Profile Image for Paul.
27 reviews5 followers
April 14, 2010
One of my favorite things about John Scalzi’s books is that the man is funny. Along the lines of I-barfed-a-pink-gelatinous-quivering-lung-out kind of funny, which is an incredibly hard thing to accomplish when you are dealing with only the written word. His signature mixture of humor and space opera have always made for entertaining and vastly enjoyable reads. (Especially if killing someone with your flatulence is your idea of high comedy.)

But my absolute favorite John Scalzi scene is the first chapter of an Old Man’s War, where John Perry visits the grave of his wife, realizing this would be the last time he would visit. The writing is so poignant, and heartfelt, and touchingly human. There is so much soulfulness and life bursting from that scene. It’s utterly unforgettable.

But it is also a scene that has been singular in nature; a high that Scalzi has never reproduced in my eyes in subsequent novels. Humor has seemingly won the day in his most recent books, and those moments of profound gravitas have slowly dwindled away, winking out faster than cupcakes at a Jenny Craig meeting. Which is disappointing, since that first chapter of an Old Man’s War showed so much potential for sci-fi greatness. If only he could re-ignite that spark once again.

In The God Engines, a new limited edition novella from Subterranean Press, that’s exactly what John Scalzi has done, re-igniting that spark with an arsonist’s glee. The God Engines is unlike anything he’s done before, shockingly different, both new and completely unexpected. It’s the book Scalzi needed to write in order to mature as a writer and to take his considerable talents to the next level. It’s the book that shows he’s more than just a writer of humorous space operas; he’s also one of the best science fiction writers currently working.

A vastly rich tale set in a theocratic universe, The God Engines is a modern sci-fi classic, an intriguing examination of faith and worship and godhood. Intelligent and provocative, the narrative reminds me of a classic Twilight Zone episode, well-written, multi-leveled and rich with ideas. The God Engines is the best thing yet from John Scalzi and worthy of award consideration.

I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Final Grade: 87 out of 100
Profile Image for Michael Campbell.
392 reviews49 followers
February 23, 2023
Short, simply written, yet deeply thought provoking novels tend to strike me the hardest. I really loved this book. I finished in a night shift at my security job and have been thinking about it for days since. I decided to reread an old favorite after finishing it, because I knew I wouldn't be able to focus on anything new.

The plot is fast and doesn't hold your hand, but I never felt lost or that anything was lacking. The concept of the God Engines had me hooked from the word go, and all the characters really drove the plot forward. It was not only thought provoking but just a genuinely cool book. Smart and clever Science Fiction with a very dark and foreboding tone.

I've heard of John Scalzi as something of a humorist and did see humor but some really dark stuff. The kind of jokes you don't laugh at, but the kind of jokes you look around to make sure no one's peering over your shoulder before you quietly chuckle.

It was a neat and fascinating world from beginning to end. The Roman Catholic like interplanetary government, the God Engines, the power granting religion, the androgynous Rookery, and the power system between the gods. The nature of religion and belief was thoroughly explored here, and I loved every minute of reading it. It's one of those audiobooks I listened to and immediately had to find a nice copy for my bookshelf.
Profile Image for Jason.
1,179 reviews256 followers
January 3, 2012
3 Stars

First, I am a fan of John Scalzi and I look forward to reading more of his works. Second, I am not really into short stories, and it is rare that a novella has enough to satiate me. That being said, this novella is filled with so much could have been, and would have been awesome points to it that it really found it to be wanting. 

Lastly, this book has some truly original horror and science fiction points and scenes. The mad god was down right scary. The world building was remarkably good for such a short novel. Scalzi should write another full length novel in this world.

This book is still one that I can easily recommend as it is original, and a fast read.
Profile Image for Jim.
Author 7 books2,025 followers
October 30, 2014
More of a 2.5. Definitely not typical of Scalzi's other work I've read. I thought it was going to be SF, but it's a chilling, almost Lovecraftian fantasy with space ships. I guess he was trying to explore faith & commitment, but it really wasn't long enough for that.. Not sure it did, but it certainly had a great message about how education & information can manipulate people.
Profile Image for Connor.
681 reviews1,657 followers
February 9, 2022
I wasn't expecting this to go the direction it went, but it was a short, interesting read. One god has overpowered other gods, enslaving them to be used as engines for space ships to travel from place to place. Tephe, a captain, is assigned on a secret mission to help his powerful god become more powerful. Questions and such bubble up from there.
Profile Image for Skylar Phelps.
237 reviews30 followers
June 8, 2017
3.5 stars. Really quite a complex and darker novella. I thought it was well done, some of it felt rushed.
Profile Image for Kater Cheek.
Author 31 books258 followers
May 19, 2010
My last book was a one star review that I recommended. This is a five star review that I'm not sure if I recommend or not. It's not a long book, more like a long short story, barely even a novella. It has a short story sensibilities; unnecessary scenes have been cut out, and the prose is quite spare.

The story is one of a space-faring race who have achieved interstellar travel by using imprisoned gods to power their ships. The people themselves worship a different god, who has conquered most of the known universe. Their faith is a real thing, a power by which they utilize their (literally) god-given talents. It's also the power by which they bind the god that serves as their engine. Belief is so important to their society that it hearkens to the inquisition, or perhaps the McCarthy era.

I'm not going to go into what happens in the plot, because I don't want to spoil it. I'm just going to warn people that it starts out dark, and gets even darker, and that it's not a pleasant view of religion. It's always hard to figure out how many stars to give something, and I don't like to give more than three, but this novella (novlette?) is one likely to start discussions with anyone who reads it.
Profile Image for JW.
125 reviews3 followers
April 5, 2014
Just how much did I hate this book? I really want to spoil it to save you from trudging through it. It's really, really bad. The writing is flat, the characters mathematically one dimensional and the story... The ending.... It's got to be some kind of Author Tract, or sourced from a bad dream.

Just don't read this book. Read Old Man's War. Hell, read Agent to the Stars. Skip this awful misfire.
Profile Image for Jamie Collins.
1,421 reviews262 followers
September 5, 2012
An interesting little novella - I'd call it fantasy rather than science fiction. The story centers on the captain of a spaceship which is powered by an enslaved god, set in a universe where religious faith has literal, tangible power. Particularly intriguing was the concept of the differing potency of first-made, second-made and third-made faith.

I was slightly unsatisfied by the ending. I wanted this to be longer, but then I’m not a great fan of short-format fiction.
Profile Image for Gertie.
358 reviews272 followers
March 7, 2016
What a strange one. I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I started, but I did expect a slightly more appealing main character. This story starts off with 2 stars and ends with 4 - around the 2/3 mark it gets suddenly much more interesting.

The concept of using "gods" for engines is a pretty fascinating one; I think what let me down most about this book is that it could have gone in so many much more interesting and appealing directions. Would love to see another author's spin on this one.
Profile Image for Liutauras Elkimavičius.
393 reviews84 followers
September 21, 2020
Kol kas man labiausiai patikęs #JohnScalzi darbas. Nors čia tik noveletė, bet labai įdomi autoriaus išmislyta dievotyra + demonologija. Tikrai labai norėčiau perskaityti ir ką nors storesnio. Ar net kelių tomų. Labai įdomu. #Recom #TheGodEngines #LEBooks
Profile Image for Sesana.
5,088 reviews348 followers
February 12, 2017
Fascinating world building, and the entire story takes a turn about 2/3 of the way through. Great and unexpected ending.
Profile Image for Nicky.
4,138 reviews1,007 followers
March 31, 2013
The range of reviews for this story is amazing. Some people were utterly surprised, others underwhelmed and claiming to have guessed every twist and turn... For me, the story makes perfect sense and each element connects, but I was still a little surprised by where Scalzi took it. I was impressed at the ambiguity about Shalle: I saw Shalle initially as male and then as an androgyne, where most people saw Shalle as female. I really liked that.

It's an interesting concept, and bravely executed -- it would be horribly easy to go with the urge for a predictable end,

I like that we ended with ambiguity, too, that I don't think there's any confirmation which 'side' we should be on in the final conflict.
Profile Image for Wealhtheow.
2,412 reviews536 followers
November 1, 2010
Apparently Scalzi's first attempt at a fantasy novel. It still feels a bit sf--the characters fly in spaceships to distant worlds. But the spaceships are powered by the torture of gods.

Generations ago, the One True God rose to power. Ever since, the remaining gods have been enslaved by the True God's followers to power their technology. But pockets of resistance remain...

Scalzi manages to pack a great deal into 136 pages--I felt like I knew the captain and his society well, and I was interested in his odd relationship with his ship's enslaved god. I think if this book had been longer the twist at the end would have felt even more like a gut-punch, but as it was, it still left me nearly breathless. Definitely worth a read.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books3,903 followers
April 13, 2013
This short novella has a lot going for it. It is definitely a space opera, but the twist has a very delicious flavor and I find myself hoping that Mr. Scalzi would continue in this universe. It isn't my normal taste in literature, but it sure fired up my imagination and I'm left wanting so much more food for thought. Thank you!
Profile Image for Degenerate Chemist.
833 reviews18 followers
June 20, 2022
This novella isn't exactly bursting with originality. You could call it Cthulhu in space. At 100ish pages it is a fun way to kill an hour.

I enjoyed this little nibble of cosmic-cosmic horror.

3.5 stars
Profile Image for Jakob.
61 reviews39 followers
April 9, 2012
Really well written and very dark. The story itself is enthralling and manages to have some Lovecraftian moments that make the goosebumps come alive on your skin. It seems to me that Scalzi is in his story trying to make some remarks about religion and clergy as corrupt as well as faith as a crutch and a hindrance to progress. If that is a correct assumption then his efforts fall fairly flat to one degree or another. One problem is that by having the gods be these real, powerful and capricious alien beings which have dominion over the definitely real, according to the logic of the book, souls and spirits of men it seems that Scalzi is trying to have his cake and eat it too. It is hard to take seriously the message that Scalzi may, or may not, be trying to convey when he is basically using a modernized version of the Olympian gods as a template for his gods. Although it is fun to read about, it does not engender belief, especially when you consider that no historic accounts of powerful gods are ever straightforwardly about what they seem to be about. There are layers upon layers of meaning contained in pretty much all religious scripture and stories, which is why they live as long as they do. Scalzi's story and his gods on the other hand are straightforwardly what they seem to be. If you have to any degree studied religions and their spiritual interpretive framework then you'll see the cognitive dissonance between the story and its supposed meaning. I can't really say if this is how Scalzi meant the book to be read but as a symbolic tale it doesn't really score very high but as a straight-faced scifi story it is awesome.

Displaying 1 - 30 of 767 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.