Book Review: Engines of the Broken World by Jason Vanhee

17343401Title: Engines of the Broken World
Author: Jason Vanhee
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Post-Apocalyptic, Horror
Rating: 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Merciful Truth and her brother, Gospel, have just pulled their dead mother into the kitchen and stowed her under the table. It was a long illness, and they wanted to bury her—they did—but it’s far too cold outside, and they know they won’t be able to dig into the frozen ground. The Minister who lives with them, who preaches through his animal form, doesn’t make them feel any better about what they’ve done. Merciful calms her guilty feelings but only until, from the other room, she hears a voice she thought she’d never hear again. It’s her mother’s voice, and it’s singing a lullaby. . . .

Engines of the Broken World is a chilling young adult novel from Jason Vanhee.

Engines of the Broken World is definitely chilling. It starts out with Merciful Truth and her brother Gospel, who’ve just stowed their dead mother under the table. It’s not that they don’t love her, it’s simply too cold outside to bury her. They live too far away from civilization to ask anyone about it – there’s only the widow and Jenna living over the hill, and they can’t exactly go out in this cold to ask them either. Besides, mother isn’t the only thing dying. Everything is dying all around them.

The only one left to guide them is The Minister, a talking squirrel who preaches the word of God. But when the world is about to die, with an unforgiving fog that sweeps up everything in its path, climbing the steep mountains toward their home, the word of God is only a slight comfort.

When mother’s corpse starts running about, Merciful thinks she’s lost it. But when the corpse begins to see a lullaby in her mother’s voice, fear and curiosity mix. Is her mother still alive, or has something else taken up her mother’s body?

Boy, was this book a different experience. I could never expect what was going to happen next. Every page was an adventure, every plot twist unexpected. The prose is very strong and powerful, and the main character’s uneducated dialect immediately pulled me into the somber atmosphere of the story. Some sentences are short, almost like a knife cutting through. There’s this hurried, disillusioned feel about the novel.

There’s a feeling of dread from page one, but the dread only continues to grow as the book moves on. There’s no reprise, no moment to take a breath, no time to put the book away. The narrative is relentless, the story won’t stop, the end is inevitable. This is no zombie apocalypse you can fight, no virus you can find a cure against, no aliens attacking from outer space. This is God taking vengeance upon the greedy, the sinners, humanity itself. It’s the last hours of humanity, and it’s as dark and bleak as it can get, and by the end, you’re almost going out of your mind as much as the main characters are.

The main characters, Merciful and her brother Gospel, are polar opposites in most aspects, but they do love each other. To see their bond weaken, and to see it grow, were intriguings part of the novel. To see their choices reflect not only upon themselves, but also upon others, was really great.

In the end, the book left me with a claustrophobic feeling. I could feel the characters’ pain and desperation. As far as I’m concerned, this is one of those masterpieces of books, the ones your library can’t do without. It’s disturbing, weird, creepy, emotional, dark, and utterly fascinating. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I absolutely loved it.

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