Engine City is the third volume in the Engines of Light series by Ken Mcleod.
I've been holding back on reading this the last book in the Engines of Light series, as I was rather disappointed with the second book. Luckily Newton's Wake was a wonderful book, as it gave me the strength to take on MacLeod and Engine City. And a good thing that is!
First of all, I have to mention that this is the first book I've read on my PalmOne PDA (a Tungsten T3). I'm not sure if this has had any influence on my feelings about the book, but I should think not. I did enjoy reading on the T3 which has a very good screen, and it's a big plus that I carry it with me everywhere, and that when ever I have a few space minutes, I can read a couple of paragraphs.
Where we learned a lot more about the gods (small g) in Dark Light, the focus of Engine City moves on and concentrates around the Aliens. The gods know about the aliens and have warned the humanoids about them and some of the traders (well one actually, Volkov) want to build defences to stop the aliens. Volkov goes from world to world in the Second Sphere and tries to get help building a defence system that can stop the aliens. He does succeed, but is he building the right system for the right enemy? And at what cost?
Engine City is about following dreams and the cost of doing so. It's also about the power of dreams and how you can play with peoples dreams and hope if you can create the right needs and wishes. It's also about what happens when you don't deliver.
We haven't seen that many "real" aliens before in MacLeod books, but I really liked them and their nature was an important part of the book. There's a couple of new characters, beside the ones we know from the first two books, and I really liked them as well. I did like a lot of the plot, but did find MacLeods theme of "progress is bad" kind of tiring and the excuse for making it fail kind of thin. To be fair, he does present the other side and does make a point of saying that “stasis is bad”.
Maybe that's the thing about this book – nothing that happens in it is really good or bad, it's just change, and you better get used to it, sonny-boy! Some people try to stop or direct progress/change, but MacLeods point seems to be that you cant, and that you may hurt a lot of people if you try. Luckily I don't have to agree with MacLeod to enjoy his books.
If you've read the first two Engines of Light books, you should pick up this one, even, or maybe especially, if you didn't like the second volume.
It's been some time since I read this book now, and have left this review a little late, but I'll still give it my best shot, brief as it may be.
Character Development - 10/10
As I have said in my past two reviews for Cosmonaut Keep and Dark Light, Ken Macleod's character's are among the best I have come across. They continued to astound me in this final volume, and I'm sure they will others. Much happens between them, relationships break and others are made, but still you come to love them all. They all fight for what they believe to be just, and you find yourself unable to choose a side. This is also because Macleod exposes you to all their lives throughout the book, and so you can relate to each of them with a deeper understanding. They have been among the hardest characters to let go in all my time reading. I fondly remember each of them. Thanks Ken.
Story - 10/10
With these ratings you must think I'm a die hard fan, but the truth isn't so. The story flows incredibly well, balancing out fast-paced action scenes, with slow beautiful descriptive ones. The many twists and turns take the reader through all types of unexpected journeys, constanty revealing new truths and mysteries. Ken truely is a master in both his story and character. Unfortunately it's been slightly too long since I read this to go into much story detail, but I assure you it is one of the most satisfying reads and endings I have come across in a long time.
So much is to be discovered in this book, and for people who've read the first two, it really is something special. So many threads come together, and you finish it with a deep feeling of satisfaction. So, again I thank Ken for a stunning read, and urge others to finish, or as the case may be, start this beautiful tale.
Written on 15th August 2004 by TC.
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