The God Engines by John Scalzi, a review

John Scalzi treads new domains with this dark Gothic Opera of star travel, faith, living gods, sex, violence and space battles which channels the spirit of H.P. Lovecraft.

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 that 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…

Author John Scalzi has ascended to the top ranks of modern science fiction with the best-selling, Hugo-nominated novels Old Man’s War and Zoe’s Tale. Now he tries his hand at fantasy, with a dark and different novella that takes your expectations of what fantasy is and does, and sends them tumbling.

Say your prayers…and behold The God Engines.


Format: Hardcover
Length: 136 pages, novella
Illustration and cover: by Vincent Chong, please check out his website, the illustrations are wonderful. 


You have to have faith to be a starship captain, since your engine is a captured and defiled god. The first line of the book is “It was time to whip the god” – just like that. Captain Ean Tephe has a strong faith and his religious superiors uses it and him when their god come under assault from new and strong gods. They send him on a mission to find converts to strengthen his god with new faith. A mission that will challenge his faith and his grasp of reality in unexpected and sinister ways.


The main focus of the story is faith. How strong faith might move mountains, but also the difference between reflecting and challenged faith compared to blind faith that doesn’t allow challenges. I am not sure that is what John intended, but I feel it has something to tell us all about the follies of blind faith. I should add that this is not a religious book even if it is about faith, there are no identifiable religions in it.


One of John Scalzi’s strength is his vivid characters and his uncanny ability to make you feel what they do. I like Ean, I understand his motivations and I chill to the bone like he does.

World building

There is something gothic over the world John Scalzi conjure. A dystropic interstellar empire run by a militaristic church, serving one God that has conquered and captured other gods to be used to power the starships that keeps it together. It is not a world I would like to live in but it is an interesting world I would like to read more about.

My View

The God Engines is a chilling horror story set in a world with living manifested gods, so it has to be fantasy? Well, maybe, there is a lot of  Space Opera and science fiction in this fantasy story. I think it’s magnificent and I love the inventiveness of the story, using gods as engines! I am just sorry it is so short, the plot could easily have been made into a full length novel. I say convinced that it would be easy for John Scalzi, him being such a fantastic writer (nudge, nudge).