This book is really short. Like read it in a sitting short to cleanse my mind after A Tale for the Time Being (which was so excellent I can still barely stand it). And I thought I was going to ding it on one major level, but then I was reading some other reader’s reviews to refresh myself on character names, and I realized that I had been had. But more on that in a minute.
So the story follows Ean Tephe, captain of a spaceship. Spaceships in this universe are not run on fuel; they are run on the power of gods that have been captured and chained in the engine areas. These gods bend reality, propelling the ship forward at the behest (and torture) of their captors. The gods were captured by the god of the empire that the spaceship is a part of. So basically, giant pantheon of powerful beings, but one has become much more supreme than the others. Kinda like Diana Ross and the rest of the Supremes.
Well, Tephe and his ship get called to a super secret meeting on the home world. Apparently, their god is worried that the other gods are trying to topple him, so he needs the good juju that new believers bring. Basically, the belief of people who have never believed is like the best meth in the world, and the god is jonesing for a fix.
They get to the new place, convert the populace, and the god shows up. But instead of being all benevolent and blessed are the meek, he starts absorbing the new believers souls, obliterating them entirely to add to his power. Well, come to find out, this is how this god has gotten all of his power, and all righteousness and honor that his believers have put in him is a sham. So their faith gets twisted and broken, allowing the trickster god powering the ship to trick them into delivering a sigil that can summon a god of the gods. The big god gets there and obliterates the soul-sucking god. This releases all the engine gods from bondage, and they are after revenge. The story closes right before the god in the engine room busts out to slaughter the crew en masse.
So, you know, super positive.
I enjoyed the story, but I did have a moment of rolling my eyes that Scalzi didn’t deserve. There’s a harem on the ship that helps deal with the problems that the officers by giving them someone that provides release (in all possible ways). So I was just thinking that this was a moment of your on-ship whorehouse with all your stereotypical science fiction women available for the menfolk. But apparently, and I didn’t notice this when reading, Scalzi doesn’t describe any of the courtesans and he gave them all gender neutral names. Whatever people envisioned was all their own doing. Which I think is a great stab for storytelling, but also points out the oppressive heteronormativity that I have internalized.
A nice story, an interesting take, and a fast read.
JMF Rating: 6.5/10
‘Til next time,