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Engines of the Broken World - Jason Vanhee

Wow, this book fucked my mind inside and out.

Like post-apocalyptic fiction, I love apocalyptic ones, too. I love reading about the sense of urgency that goes along with it, that kind of emergency where everyone is scrambling and panicking about an event that would end the world as we know it. I've read a few good ones, but more often than not, a lot of them use the same old formula that a new, refreshing voice in these genres is in order. I think I've found that voice in Jason Vanhee. Oh boy, Engines of the Broken World may not be the best apocalyptic fiction out there, but it's definitely one of the more interesting ones that didn't just give me that feeling of urgency, but that feeling of dread as well.

Merciful and Gospel Truth live in a village far away. Their mother just died, and everything else seem to be dying as well. They only have themselves to turn to, save for a talking squirrel named the Minister, who is one of God's many instruments to guide the people to be good so they go to Heaven, and a Widowed woman named Esmeralda Cally and another woman over the hills named Jenny. They discover a mysterious fog closing in on them, getting nearer and nearer by the day, and find out they may be running out of time before the world completely disappears. The Minister seems to be keeping secrets, the spirit of their mother seems to be haunting the house, they are trapped and don't know what to do.

Usually in apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, religion is there, but it's usually in the form of something evil, like sacrificing people for a made-up god, or it being a sanctuary for those clinging to hope. I don't always mind either way despite being Christian, because it's just part of the story, and I try to keep an open mind as much as possible. But what makes this book so different from others is how the apocalyptic event is very closely tied to religion and makes it work.

It's funny how a book with a God punishing the people for the second time around for their greed and corruption became the most unsettling book for me to ever read. This is the first apocalyptic book that really, really, REALLY gave me a sense of dread of the inevitable end. There is no cop out. There are no aversions to the crisis. The end is coming, and there's nothing to be done to reverse it. I tried to read the book in a neutral point of view, casting aside my Christian reservations, and loved every second and every page of it. It has an absolutely haunting voice, and the narrator, Merciful, is successful in giving me that looming feeling that there's nothing to be done and we can only prepare for the end however we can in the context we're stuck in. Every time she would have flashbacks of the happier times, it gave me a lonely feeling deep in my heart. Every time she'd face the "ghosts" of the house that have their own agendas, I felt a disturbing sense of suspense and I felt scared for her. Every time she'd be confused with who to trust, what choice to follow, my heart would break for her. It really gives you that feeling of bleakness, but this sense of trepidation was so enchanting as well.

I really applaud the author how she was able to nicely tie this with a well-known religion and not make it preachy. I'm Christian, and I admit I may be a bit bias in this aspect, but the religion part in this book showcases more of the spiritual side of it. It reminded me of many of my Theology classes with my Jesuit professors about faith and accepting we can never understand God, and God is just is. Usually, in an apocalyptic event, I see characters cursing their gods and asking them why does this have to happen, why do these people have to die, etc. etc. and while that is shown here as well, there is also that acceptance and welcoming of the end despite being so afraid and scared. I absolutely recommend this, but it is recommended with reservations. I recommend reading the book for what it is even if you're an Atheist, or a follower of another religion, etc., and I guarantee you'll enjoy it as long as you read with an open mind.

Also, that ending. God, that ending. It's still on my mind up to this day and I can't forget about it. I loved how it didn't cop out. I loved how beyond the pages, it scared me, made me feel alone, made me feel insanely claustrophobic. I don't think I can ever be as strong as the main character here. It's so haunting and chilling.

High 4.5/5