Information about David Edison:
David Edison was born in Saint Louis, Missouri. In other lives, he has worked in many flavors of journalism and is editor of the LGBTQ video game news site GayGamer.net. He currently divides his time between New York City and San Francisco. The Waking Engine is his first novel.
Click here to visit the author's official website.
Information about The Waking Engine:
A stunning debut fantasy in the tradition of China Miéville and Jeff VanderMeer
Welcome to the City Unspoken, where Gods and Mortals come to die.
Contrary to popular wisdom, death is not the end, nor is it a passage to some transcendent afterlife. Those who die merely awake as themselves on one of a million worlds, where they are fated to live until they die again, and wake up somewhere new. All are born only once, but die many times... until they come at last to the City Unspoken, where the gateway to True Death can be found.
Wayfarers and pilgrims are drawn to the City, which is home to murderous aristocrats, disguised gods and goddesses, a sadistic faerie princess, immortal prostitutes and queens, a captive angel, gangs of feral Death Boys and Charnel Girls... and one very confused New Yorker.
Late of Manhattan, Cooper finds himself in a City that is not what it once was. The gateway to True Death is failing, so that the City is becoming overrun by the Dying, who clot its byzantine streets and alleys... and a spreading madness threatens to engulf the entire metaverse.
Richly imaginative, The Waking Engine is a stunning debut by a major new talent.
A REVIEW OF DAVID EDISON'S THE WAKING ENGINE
David Edison's The Waking Engine is definitely one of the best and most imaginative new weirdish fantasy novels published during the recent years. It's a dark and beautifully written debut fantasy novel for adult readers. It's a perfect and hallucinatory fusion of different elements, because the author uninhibitedly combines many fantasy, science fiction and horror elements, and adds sex, violence and plenty of weirdness to the story.
I was impressed by this novel, because it differed from other new fantasy novels in many ways. It was refreshing to read a complex new weirdish novel that took familiar new weirdish elements to new heights of weirdness - strangeness and unpredictability are in full bloom in this novel. I can mention that this novel was my kind of a new weirdish fantasy novel, because I love this kind of complex and beautifully written novels.
I have to mention that last year was exceptionally good for new weirdish fantasy novels, because Tor Books published this novel and Rjurik Davidson's The Unwrapped Sky. Both of these novels are excellent and will please fans of new weirdish novels. I'm sure that many readers will be pleased to read The Waking Engine because of its different kind of contents and fascinatingly dark and twisted story.
The Waking Engine will definitely not be to everyone's liking, but this kind of new weirdish novels seldom are to everyone's liking. I personally like this kind of fantasy novels very much, because they're often much better, more imaginative and more original - not to mention bolder - than other fantasy novels. Unfortunately, I'm aware of the fact that this kind of novels tend to split the readership to those who love them and to those who dislike them, because not everybody likes weirdness and complexity in their fantasy novels.
Because readers will either like or dislike The Waking Engine, I think that a word of warning may be in order: The Waking Engine is not an easily accessible novel, but everything begins to make sense when you let the story unfold and read the whole novel. If you're looking for an easy novel to read, you should look elsewhere, because this is a complex novel full of weirdness and the author writes about difficult themes and issues. I think it's also good to mention that there are a few scenes of sexual and violent nature that may not be suitable for all readers.
I consider The Waking Engine to be an outstanding and unique achievement in visonary storytelling, because it boldly differs from other fantasy novels. This novel is a glorious celebration of imagination, fever-dream-like atmosphere and grittiness. It's a lavishly flamboyant and fascinatingly disturbing fantasy novel for readers who appreciate complex and weird stories.
Here's a bit of information about the story:
Cooper wakes up and doesn't know where he is. All he knows is that he has been moved somewhere and hears voices around him. He soon finds out that he's in the City Unspoken where the dead come to die. A gray-skinned man called Asher and a beautiful woman called Sesstri tell him things about the weird and bizarre City Unspoken. Cooper is a bit shaken by what goes on in the City, because the different places and the different customs of the inhabitants feel strange to him. Soon Cooper finds out that something is wrong and a dangerous collective insanity is spreading in the City...
This is all that I'll reveal about the story, because the story must be read in order to fully understand it and its complexity. (The story is complex and so full of weirdness that it is difficult to describe its contents to readers who haven't read it yet.)
The Waking Engine is one of the most complex and convoluted new weirdish fantasy novels I've ever read, because it's something different even within the new weird genre. It defies easy categorization, because it contains so many different elements that it is nearly impossible to categorize it properly. The only possible way to categorize it is to call it a bold new weirdish fantasy novel.
The Waking Engine is simultaneously a stunningly original vision of afterlife and a homage to imaginary fantasy novels. The author's vision of afterlife is amazing, because when people die they travel to different places and being alive is only a small part of the person's life span. There are thousands of worlds and an unaccountable number of universes and when a person dies he/she continues to live elsewhere in another place. In this novel, death is not the end, but the beginning of a new phase in a person's life. When the person shifts to a new body in a new place, memories and personality also shift to a new body. Dying is possible only by achieving True Death, because True Death means permanent death.
The worldbuilding is impressive and the author takes his time to write about the places and people of the labyrinthine City Unspoken in a vivid way. The City Unspoken is a fascinating place full of different kind of wonders and horrors. The author offers his readers such disturbing and macabre sights as bloodsluts who sell their bodies to be used in horrible and gruesome ways, but can't die and will come back to life after death (in other words, bloodsluts let men kill them for money). He also writes about many other intriguing inhabitants, including faeries and aristocrats. The different areas of the City Unspoken are fascinatingly weird places. For example, the Apostatic Cemetery is quite a sight to behold. The other areas are also wonderfully weird and will stick to the reader's mind.
Cooper is an interesting and a bit different kind of a protagonist, because he's not sure why he has ended up in the City Unspoken. He's a gay man from New York and he feels lost in the strange new world. The author writes well about his confusion about the happenings and what happens to him.
The other characters are also interesting, because the author creates memorable characters who have their own agendas. There's wonderful diversity among these secondary characters, because some of them are insane while others are normal.
The City Unspoken is a home to aristocrats, gods, goddesses, humans, faeries and gangs etc. There's even a monstrous cyborg faerie queen who's one of the most original evil beings ever to appear on the pages of new weirdish novels. Reading about the evil characters was fascinating for me, because the author created memorable villains that were not your normal kind of villains. I think that nobody will be able to forget Lallowë who tortures and kills her father every day and Lallowë's mother, Cicatrix, who has her own plans. I also think that it will be quite difficult to forget what Purity Kloo and her friends do when they first appear in the story.
I have to mention separately that reading about Thea Philosopater was very interesting. She was once Cleopatra, but now she has her own agendas just like many other characters.
One of the strengths of this novel is that David Edison doesn't highlight Cooper's homosexuality in any way. Cooper is described as a normal man who has his own feelings and problems just like everybody else.
There are a few problems with the characterization, because there are moments when some of the characters feel a bit flat. This kind of lack of depth in the characters didn't bother me much, because the author concentrated fully on delivering a unique fantasy story, but there were a few moments when I wished that the characters would've had more depth in them.
David Edison's prose is excellent and he has plenty of imagination and creativity. His prose is beautifully dark, eloquent and - at times - even poetic. His descriptive prose makes the mind boggling wonders and the disturbingly terrifying things come to life. I enjoyed reading his prose, because I've always loved descriptive prose.
This novel contains quite a lot of philosophical elements concerning death and eternal life. I found these elements enchanting and fascinating. In my opinion David Edison wrote surprisingly well and deeply about these elements, because he seems to assume that his readers are intelligent persons who can think for themselves and are capable of forming their own opinions about difficult issues. He doesn't underline anything, which is great.
This novel is slightly reminiscent of the new weirdish fantasy novels written by China Miéville and Jeff VanderMeer. It also reminded me a bit of the novels written by Felix Gilman and Anthony Huso, but was different from their novels. There's also something in this novel that slightly reminded me a bit of Zachary Jernigan's science fantasy novel No Return.
I sincerely hope that David Edison will continue to write more this kind of novels, because he's a talented author who clearly has a gift for writing dark and original new weirdish fantasy stories. In my opinion there can never be too many writers of good new weirdish fantasy, because new weirdish fantasy is one of the best and most imaginative sub-genres of speculative fiction.
The cover image by Stephan Martiniere looks stunningly beautiful. The artist has managed to visualize the City Unspoken in a perfect way.
This novel could be analyzed in many different ways, but I think it's now time for me to stop writing about it, because this review is already quite long.
My final words are:
The Waking Engine is not for everybody, but readers who enjoy reading new weirdish novels should take a look at it, because it's a uniquely complex novel. It's a rich, detailed and beautifully written fantasy novel for adult readers. It invites readers on an imaginary and rewarding journey to the territory of the weird and the fantastic. It pushes the boundaries of the new weird genre to new and exciting directions. If you enjoy reading complex novels that are something out of the ordinary, please read this novel, because you'll most likely enjoy reading it.
Highly recommended (especially to readers who want to read something different)!