Title: The Waking Engine
Author: David Edison
Genre: Fantasy, adult fiction, science fiction, steampunk
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Welcome to the City Unspoken, where Gods and Mortals come to die.
Contrary to popular wisdom, death is not the end, nor is it a passage to some transcendent afterlife. Those who die merely awake as themselves on one of a million worlds, where they are fated to live until they die again, and wake up somewhere new. All are born only once, but die many times . . . until they come at last to the City Unspoken, where the gateway to True Death can be found.
Wayfarers and pilgrims are drawn to the City, which is home to murderous aristocrats, disguised gods and goddesses, a sadistic faerie princess, immortal prostitutes and queens, a captive angel, gangs of feral Death Boys and Charnel Girls . . . and one very confused New Yorker.
Late of Manhattan, Cooper finds himself in a City that is not what it once was. The gateway to True Death is failing, so that the City is becoming overrun by the Dying, who clot its byzantine streets and alleys . . . and a spreading madness threatens to engulf the entire metaverse.
This book reminded me a bit of Neil Gaiman's fantasy - it's very atmospheric, and there are more than a few elements of the grotesque, bizarre, and fantastical. The Waking Engine is quite a unique beast, and I don't even really know how to review it. I think the best way to put it is that this book made me laugh, cringe, hyperventilate, gasp, ponder, and smile.
The Waking Engine's mythology is very intricate and unique. The concept is pretty much that when you die, you simply pass from one world to another, living in various worlds until you finally end up in a world where you can achieve True Death. The City Unspoken is one such place, and this is where Cooper finds himself. Cooper is a bit of an anomaly, and a lot of people have plans for him - he just has to figure out who to trust and how to stay alive. Meanwhile, the aristocracy is stuck inside the Dome, and Purity Kloo sets her mind to finding a way out of her guilded prison. Along the way, she discovers startling secrets about her family and her world. This books also features a mad fairy-queen who is poisoning herself with technological mods while attempting to take over the world, Cleopatra in a form you've never seen before, Death boys who make people slaves to their bodies, First People who are the closest things to Gods in this universe, and other fantastical creatures.
It's really hard to talk about this book because there was just a lot going on. At times it was confusing to keep track of all the characters and their secret motivations/sudden revelations, but I thought this book needed to have that much going on. It's less about any one character and more about the complexity of the world itself - you have to be really patient reading this book because it takes a long time for pieces to click together.
I was intrigued by the premise, and the book did justice to it. The writing was gorgeous, and there were a lot of little moments that really made me think. The story did drag towards the middle, and there are still some things I'm not clear about, but I'm okay with that - half the fun of this book is letting some enigmas stay that way.
*A free copy of this book was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*