Engines of the Broken World

Title: Engines of the Broken World

Author: Jason Vanhee

It was a cold day outside when her mother died. Merciful Truth and her brother, Gospel, have no way to bury her in ground frozen solid and covered with snow besides, so they leave her in the kitchen under the table. But Merciful hears her singing not too long after that, and it’s beginning to look as though the dead may not be entirely done with the living. . .

This is an unusual story that starts out with a bit of zombie-horror and then changes and changes again, so by the end it’s still not quite clear what was going on except it’s not anything like you thought. And it is about the end of the world (in a way most books aren’t; see the last page).

I have mixed thoughts about the conclusions, but I did like the characters. The Minister is a made thing that lives with the family and leads them to salvation. And what it is, and what that means, is an interesting journey. Merciful Truth is a rather simple but goodhearted twelve-year-old who hasn’t been outside her small village and knows little beyond what the Minister and her mother have taught her, where her brother Gospel is wilder and prone to living outdoors more often than in. And in the village there are only two others beside their family, so the creeping horror as various disasters happen accelerates nicely.

The more I think about the ending, the more I don’t really care for what Merciful does. She mostly seems to be trying to play all sides in the hopes that one of them will get her the ending she wants. And the ambiguity of the end will likely frustrate people hoping for a more definitive conclusion.

I did particularly like this prayer the Minister offers during the funeral for Merciful’s mother. I’m not sure if it’s original or if it’s quoting something else.

Heavenly Father,
You made us not for darkness nor for death,
But for life with you for ever.
With you we have nothing to fear.
Speak to us now words of eternal life.
Lift us from perdition and suffering
To the light and peace of your presence,
And set the glory of your love before us;
Through the Lord, Amen.

Overall this is still an interesting read because it’s so different. Recommended if the horror vibe and strong characterization appeals to you, otherwise Neutral.

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