Sunday, October 27, 2013

Review: Engines of the Broken World by Jason Vanhee

Merciful Truth and her brother, Gospel, have just pulled their dead mother into the kitchen and stowed her under the table. It was a long illness, and they wanted to bury her—they did—but it’s far too cold outside, and they know they won’t be able to dig into the frozen ground. The Minister who lives with them, who preaches through his animal form, doesn’t make them feel any better about what they’ve done. Merciful calms her guilty feelings but only until, from the other room, she hears a voice she thought she’d never hear again. It’s her mother’s voice, and it’s singing a lullaby. . . .

I was originally drawn to this book because I do love my creepy books. What I got was very easily one of the strangest and most unique books I’ve ever read. Within the first few pages you are introduced to a character who is a preachy talking cat called The Minister. And it just gets stranger from there. You go to learn that the world is ending by disappearing into a fog very à la The Neverending Story.

While it was strange and unusual and very country and moderately religious (but not in a preachy way - more of a story element way), I liked it. It was just so different in so many ways that it’s kind of like having ginger while eating sushi. Palate cleanser. In fact, when I get to the “Similar recommendations” part, it’s going to be a challenge to think of anything to compare it to.

Now, let’s go a bit conventional. Merciful Truth is both an awesome name and an awesome character. The things that she bravely faces, would have me reaching for my brown pants. She’s strong and tough and this book could have been hundreds of pages longer and I wouldn’t have minded because Merciful would have been leading it. Then there’s Gospel. Ack, I loved Gospel too. He had a lot of moments of being a ‘childish boy before a man’, but there something underlying there that I just loved. I don’t necessarily think I go for brother-sister duos, but when I do it’s because their strengths and weaknesses balance out and in the end there’s an undeniable sibling bond that can trump any happenings.

This is such a little book and such a quick read I really don’t want to say much more than what I have because I don’t want to spoil anything, but I will give you this breakdown. The first 100 pages were strangely intriguing and creepy, the second 100 pages were even more creepy and terrifying and the last 100 pages were so incredibly intriguing that I don’t think I stopped reading even to look at the time. And whoa, that ending. Ka-bam. All in all this book is highly literary and has the feeling of a good allegory even if I don’t know enough religion to say an allegory to what.

So if you want some seriously creepy stuff to dampen the upcoming holiday cheer, check this book out. Seriously.

Similar recommendations: All the Earth, Thrown to the Sky by Joe R. Lansdale and Hunted by Adam Slater.

-Reviewed by Jennifer

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