February 10, 2014 by mmileti
The Waking Engine by David Edison is a Sci-Fi novel with Fantasy and Steampunk elements. The blend of genres and the incredibly distinctive writing style ensure that this unique debut novel will set itself apart from the other upcoming novels of 2014. This book contains echoes of China Mieville’s style, but is even more strange and mind-bending. Edison has created a vivid and striking new whirlwind of a world that is bound to elicit polarizing opinions in readers.
The premise of this novel is extremely intriguing. Cooper, a man from present day Manhattan, goes to sleep one night and wakes up in a completely different world. It turns out instead of oblivion or a transcendent afterlife, those that die wake again in their same bodies on one of a million different worlds. Every person from a variety of different dimensions and realities share this fate, and is destined to live on this new world until he dies again and wakes up somewhere else. But it does not take long for Cooper to learn that his experience is extremely unique; he has woken on a world that is usually a last stop before a person ends in true Death after countless lifetimes. The City Unspoken contains a portal that leads to this true death, but this portal is now mysteriously closing. This means that every soul will be fated to live forever, always to wake again. And even worse, Cooper is not certain that he died before he woke up in the City Unspoken. He still has a navel, a symbol of his birth, while every other person wakes up completely unscarred in their new life.
Cooper is now the center of attention for all sorts of strange beings, and he has no idea who to trust. He has is suddenly thrust into the plans of gods, a faerie princess who murders her own father every day, a captured Angel, an immortal queen from ancient Earth, and an undying noble class who butcher each other over the slightest of transgressions. Cooper must find his way quickly before the gateway to True Death is shut forever and madness engulfs the entire universe.
This novel is beautifully written. It is intelligent, imaginative, and incredibly descriptive all at the same time. It almost reminds me of a very strange epic poem describing a reality that is hard for the human mind to comprehend. Edison’s characters are fascinating, and the world is so wonderfully weird that it is hard to compare it to any other novel in existence. One of the best things about this book is its extreme originality in a genre that is often filled with cliches. Edison’s debut challenges both the mind and the imagination, even though sometimes it is hard to keep up with the technicolor tapestry that is woven in the reader’s mind. The book has almost a dreamlike quality, with a storyline that is so fantastical and capricious it is often hard to fully grasp. This unpredictability is consistent with the book’s themes and succeeds in bringing the reader into a setting that seems like a waking dream. The writing contains a lot of depth, and at times can be stunning.
This book is undeniably a spectacular piece of fiction, but it may not be for everyone. The plot is so changeable that is sometimes feels as if the author has left the reader in the middle of a storm of images and ideas that flash by too fast to be put together coherently. The POV changes between characters with little explanation, and it is not until about halfway through the novel that I got used to its rhythm and the world and characters really started to make sense. If you are looking for an easy fast paces read you should look elsewhere. This novel is more like an abstract piece of art. It is definitely worth reading for its beautiful prose, depth, and amazing imagery, but it is not the type of book whose plot leaves you on the edge of your seat.
Overall, I would give this book a 7.5/10, as I loved the writing and style, but probably would have enjoyed a more cohesive plot. This is one of the most unique books I have ever read, and it is definitely worth a read for anyone that enjoys the written word as an art form. I am looking forward to more books by this author, and am curious whether he will keep to this distinct style, or give us something completely different.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley and the publisher in return for an honest review.