Sunday 14 February 2021

Book review: Engine Summer

1610626774550-e63bf627-9fac-4663-a499-99c4b6196b0a_ This is a strange book; it is number three of John Crowley's early works. I'd place it level with Beasts, but below the beautiful Deep.

Goodreads has a number of reviews who all think much the same as me. So I don't need to say much: this is beautiful, but differently to The Deep: darker, more thoughtful, sadder.

There's a little gentle poking fun at our world, as these distant folk try to understand the remains. At one point, viewing Road, he asks what is it for, and is told "killing people".

The book itself is gentle. At one point, when Our Hero sort of falls into the hands of Dr Boots List and they aren't sure they want him, one of them suggests tying him to a tree and hitting him with sticks until he dies. Which doesn't sound gentle but the point is that they are totally unused to violence.

Is that plausible? Within the book it is, because everything is non-competitive. Within the book that works, but it does leave their society curiously drained, vitiated, lacking some spark. As they realise: they are in the ashes of the Angels' world, and feel no interest in rebuilding.

One reason they don't need to compete is that, mysteriously, they are never hungry even though they grow no food. How Rush would have made his journey had he needed food I don't know. Crowley skips these genuinely unimportant details.

I love the "planters": the idea that we sent ships to other stars, and they have returned, but the civilisation that sent them is gone. In a quibbling mood, I should point out that the level of tech required to get things back from the stars is higher than plausible for the Angels, given the rest of the book. But the idea is lovely.


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