“the engines of dawn” by paul cook
from the blurb:
for hundreds of years humans have used the great engines of the alien enamorati to propel their biggest starships, enabling millions to travel – and live – among the stars. as part of this alliance, the enamorati jealously guard the secrets of their engines’ power. and a complacent humanity becomes dependant on their alien benefactors for survival.
but when an engine fails on a university ship – stranding it in space – physics lecturer ben bennett and a small group of students and professors rise up to fight the status quo. theirs is the first shot in a growing rebellion against the aliens. and their probes into thet inner reaches of the enamorati culture and mind will uncover the shocking secret of the aliens’ technology – and set the stage for revolution.
this wasn’t bad. it started very well, but then it sadly petered out as the novel wore on.
the novel manages to link its grand theme to a human story, when ben bennett starts asking questions of the enamorati after one of them delivers a dead pet to his doorstep. the owner of the dead pet turns out to be julia waxwing, whom he falls in love with, and from then onwards their fates are linked as ben tries to win her affection and find out how her pet got killed.
the alien race is very cool and distinctly believable, as cook invents an interesting culture and mythology for the enamorati. the university ship and cook’s vision of the future are both also very plausable, in the way that cook depicts the politics and the new religion that has evolved.
the story is quite exciting, as it has action and intrigue and quite a few surprises but it just goes stale after a while. i get a strong impression that cook spent a long time working out his characters, the culture of the world and the plot – and thinking back to the book, the plot is in fact very cool. unfortunately, though, cook took his eyes of the ball as the novel wore on. its a difficult thing to describe, but i just didn’t hear the author’s voice anymore, if you know what i mean. or, it seemed like he was just going through the motions.
that said, it was still a fun read, and if you find yourself in a log-cabin, at a loose end, and you see this book on the shelf, it would definitely pass the time nicely.