Engine Summer

by John Crowley

Rating: ★★★★

A gentle, somewhat Atwoodian post-apocalyptic novel. I actually went into this expecting something stranger or more difficult than it turned out to be, so my impression is all about it being quite straightforward and down-to-earth, although from an outside perspective it isn't really either of those things.

Rush that Speaks tells us of the warrens, the descendants of an insular personality-science commune that wandered the broken earth before settling into Eden and smoking the alien bread. They preserve the memories of the saints, who are people worth talking about, and they both say what they mean and mean what they say. After he leaves in search of the girl, he finds a modern saint in a tree, who points him in the direction of the List. The List are crazy cat ladies -- originally a millenarian feminist cult led by a transgender prophet, they annually become Dr. Boots, a cat. Being a cat for a while tends to make you behave erratically, and the girl was already flighty, so she leaves the story. In the end, Rush recovers from being Dr. Boots enough to put on a glove and upload his brain into a sphere in order to reprogram a more technologically advanced society, so they can learn how to chill out. If this is successful because he has told the truth, got high, been a cat or some combination of all of these is I guess up to the reader.

The style of the book was relaxing, mostly narrative with some interjections from the listener, digressions from the narrator, and enough conclusion in the framing device that you don't mind the lack of ending in Rush's story. The setting was compellingly constructed, with enough bits of the old civilisation lying around that you could appreciate it, but without that civilisation taking over too much of the story. The different models for how people could live were nice, the suggestions of Great Cycles didn't really fit, the cat people were on the whole pretty frustrating even if I love the idea of their cats.