Monday, November 16, 2015

Book Review: Engine Summer

Nearing the end of the 1970s in my reading of David Pringle's Science Fiction: The 100 Best Books Published in English from 1945 to 1985, I've hit my second book by author John Crowley, Engine Summer.

About a decade ago I read his 1981 fantasy book LIttle, Big, which focuses on a house, which is an entrance to the realm of Faerie, and a family tied to that world as well (it's pretty great).

Engine Summer (1979), takes place ages after us on a significantly depopulated Earth, among tribes (called chords) of peoples living as traders, farmers, hunters and gatherers. Among the people of Little Belaire we meet our hero, Rush That Speaks, a young man who's life changes when he falls in love with a girl called Once A Day, who soon leaves his community to join a group of travelers called Dr. Boots List.

Rush spends the novel travelling, attempting to find his way to either Once A Day, or perhaps to his own Sainthood, examining a world that has long since moved on from it's human populace. Perhaps the greatest strength of the book is it doesn't contain much backstory, requiring the reader to attempt to make sense of the story as they go along, keeping you in the moment with Rush throughout the narrative. The book would definitely benefit from multiple readings as plot points given later change much of what you've read before.

The world in Engine Summer is strange, haunting, and just as you begin to understand any specific setting, moves into stranger situations, still. At the same time, there are moments of humanity in the novel that completely caught me off guard, and truths for Rush that change everything.

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