Review: The Waking Engine by David Edison

The Waking Engine 
Author: David Edison
Genre: Science Fiction
To Be Published: February 11 2014
Publisher: Tor Books
Source: ARC via Netgalley
Find: Goodreads
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.

Oh my goodness, this book was a trip and a half. I can already tell this is a book I'll be rereading in the future more than once just to get lost in the streets of The City Unspoken, and every time, I'll still discover something new. David Edison truly is a master wordsmith and it's really amazing that all the little details and nuances that make The City Unspoken so vibrant and thriving, as well as the rest of the world building for that matter, can come from just one person's mind. There were a few times that I felt the plot was slowed down by the descriptive writing, but those moments were few and far between. Overall, I found Cooper's long journey exploring the city along with Asher and Sesstri to figure out why people are no longer Dying and why Cooper is even there in the first place epic and entertaining.
Cooper leaned against the prow of the swift but unlovely barge and couldn't help wondering how many folks back home would pay more than a finger or some back meat to have the conversations he'd had over the last week, and how miserably he'd squandered each opportunity. Still, he couldn't think of anything to ask the transcendentalist poet beside him.

"Anyway, thanks for not being a dick or trying to steal my shirt."

However, I must warn that this book is not for the young or faint of heart. If you are not okay with violence, gore, sexual situations, and some offensive material, then this isn't really for you. There were a few issues I had with it, such as the overuse of the words whore and slut, but I didn't mind the most of the adult material. Although the violence seemed over the top at times, it still fit in the context of the world. I'm not surprised that the people in The City Unspoken have turned to inventing some really creatively gory hobbies to pass the time in a world where they cannot Die with a capital D.

I liked that the excessive amount of violence in the book is counterbalanced by a subtle dark humor Edison injects into the story. There were times where I thought I was going to hell for laughing. There were even a few pop culture nods and inside jokes thrown into the mix which just goes to show that as crazy and as fantastical as the The City Unspoken is, there's still a connection our own familiar world.

Each character is masterly crafted and incredibly layered with their own story to tell. You might not like every character since most of them have some glaring faults and questionable morals, but you're guaranteed to find them interesting. I found myself dangerously attracted to certain characters just like how Cooper was seduced by Marvin.

VERDICT: An epic sci-fi fantasy journey with a captivating metaverse with such immersive world building, you might have to read it twice. Adult content warning.


  1. Haha, major adult content warning! I absolutely loved the unique ideas and writing in this one but I really wish there had been a few less explicit words since it started to grate on me D: I loved that epilogue though, even though it means that there won't be another book I assume :(

  2. Leigh (Little Book Star)January 27, 2014 at 6:16 PM

    Okay, I am SOOOO SOLD! I have to get my hands on this baby when it comes out. I'm a sci-fi lover and this sounds right up my alley. I haven't read a lot of gory sci-fi books so this one will be a very interesting read. Also, I don't mind it so yup, I'm very excited for The Waking Engine! Plus, I love how the side characters has an actual role in the story. I hate it when side characters are there just for the sake of having side characters. I actually want all the characters to shine, not just the main character.

  3. Yeah, it really bothered me when "bloodsluts" were first introduced how often Cooper would think about it. It was kind of an "Okay, we get it, let's move on now" kind of moment. For the ending, I assumed the opposite. With how things ended with Lallowë, it seemed like a perfect set-up for another book, it just won't be set in The City Unspoken?

  4. It was definitely a different experience from what I was used to in the best way possible. I really did love most of the characters. Some of them were just so ridiculous, you either love them or love to hate them, haha. I hope you enjoy this book, too!

  5. Right, I forgot about the whole Lallowe thing! Curious, I can't decide if I want to read a book about hunting her all over the metaverse, haha, I just loved The City Unspoken so much!

  6. I've heard lots of good things about this one. Glad you liked it! Great review :)