I just finished reading my first ARC (Advanced Review Copy) via NetGalley, and it was a new experience, since I was reading it as an ebook. The book was, The Waking Engine, which is the debut novel for David Edison. I thought that the book showed great promise, and it is the first in a quartet, so I can’t wait to see where Edison takes it. The idea of the novel is to me, quite new and ‘fresh’, and most certainly exciting: when you die, you move on to another universe and get to live another life. This process continues until you are granted Death. The problem is, Death isn’t happening as often as it should, and this is causing all sorts of problems.
I think that this idea of rebirth appeals to me, because I’ve always wanted to live a number of lives, because there is so much to do, but so little time. Think about it, there is more hours of content uploaded in a week then you could possibly watch in your entire lifetime. That neglects TV shows, movies, books. Which neglects social interaction in sport, going out, having a family, going to school and learning languages, maths, science, history, and creating art, music and drama. And there are so many choices in how we live our lives, why wouldn’t you want to live more than one? And even better in this book, you still remember everything you knew before! (Also this book appealed to me initially because of the awesome cover, you can see to your left!)
So perhaps that’s why I was drawn to this book, it’s theme was interesting to me. As a sci-fi/fantasy novel it takes a bit of getting used to. When you start you are completely bewildered with what you are reading, you know nothing of the world you are stepping into, and everything is confusing. And that’s what happened here, and that’s the feeling that the main character, Cooper, would have felt waking up in a brand new world. Of course, there are some helpful companions to explain what’s going on, well sort of, and in a long drawn out fashion. Even though this is surely a trope, I didn’t really mind, the last thing you want is a complete info dump where you feel overwhelmed so you give up.
But once you start to familiarise yourself with it, you find that it is action packed with plenty of twists and turns. So this keeps you on your toes, trying to figure out where this is going, and who you can really trust. Because there are a whole heap of characters here, and because you swap between them within chapters as the perspective changes this not only makes it difficult to judge characters, but also adds some confusion. The swapping around obviously heightens the suspense, and there was a lot of suspense leading up to the climax. Really, there was a lot going on, and by the end of it, everything was coming nicely together.
It is a gritty, sci-fi novel, and doesn’t shy away from things, including the macabre, but in a world where death is just the beginning, things can’t be too manicured. So be prepared for some crude language, references to drugs, sex, prostitution, that sort of thing. And also be prepared for some strange images, like a room made of bones.
At times though it was clear that Edison was almost trying too hard. The vocabulary was much too sophisticated, and resulted in many pauses in reading to try and search up what that word means (happened multiple times a chapter). The focus became on what words were used, rather than what the words were saying. As readers we get that the author is smart and knows all these big, fancy, rare words, but we don’t need to see them again and again. Once or twice in the novel is nearing the limit. For example (I copied down a few, let me know how many you a) know the meaning of and b) have ever heard/seen before in your life. If you know a few of these words you are doing really well): nacelle, sommelier, odalisque, numismatists, pederast, rapine, catenary, antediluvian, Détente, dallianced, seraglio, palimpset, pogrom, propitious, majordomo, demitasse, syncretistic. Need I say more? Don’t get me wrong, I love complex vocabulary and have said it in the past that I like finding these new words, but it’s just a little heavy with them, and the list above is a small fraction. This sometimes added to the execution of the novel not being quite up to scratch in some places.
Another point I was going to make was that the names were just too weird. I understand that it’s fantasy/sci-fi and we are in a different universe really, so the names can’t be really normal. But, sometimes it was just a little too much, and trying to remember the names was a real challenge. But when I came to the end of the novel, I didn’t find it to be too bad.
An added bonus of having a multiverse where you die and wake up somewhere else, is that Edison can add in a few well know Earthlings, and have them live in this new world with Cooper, the City Unspoken. And this can be quite interesting, and unexpected, so be on the lookout for them.
Apparently this is part of a quartet, and the ending makes it clear that there is much more to come from this multiverse, and I look forward to the next instalments. It is clear that there was a lot of planning to work out this quite complex novel and the larger series, as when you thought the answers were coming close, it was like coming to the top of a hill, and then seeing your path has much greater peaks to climb. But I want to climb them. It’s a promising series, from a promising author.