The God Engines
I knew this would be dark fantasy…but jiminy. Dark almost feels like the wrong word. Maybe “harsh fantasy” would be a more appropriate descriptor. Because it’s certainly that. Some of the sequences were really tough to read (or, in my case, listen to): violent torture, grisly human sacrifice, and an ending that is most assuredly not a happy one all combine to make this a rather disturbing tale.
Which isn’t to say that it’s bad. It’s not. Not at all. The world is imaginative and well-developed (if harsh) and the plot follows logically given that world development. The writing itself is excellent and vivid and other positive adjectives. The protagonists and his associates are sympathetic while being horrid, which is a pretty neat trick that Stephen King could stand to learn.
Fortunately, for all of the violence and horrors, this is still a fantasy book rather than a horror one. So it isn’t apt to cause nightmares or anything. I think the worst thing about it is that it can probably serve as a mirror for a lot of people where we learn that the real monster is ourselves! But that’s sort of what literature is supposed to do. So that’s really just a job well done.
All in all, this is another excellent piece by Scalzi and a pretty good example of the sort of thing that’s been making him such a force in contemporary SF.