Engineman (2010) by Eric Brown, released in October by Solaris, contains the titular novel plus eight additional short stories set in the Engineman universe. This is a review of the novel only.
Engineman was originally published in 1994 and according to the author’s own website he reworked his original story. I never read his earlier version so I will make no comment about it.
Engineman follows the story of ex-engineman Ralph Mirren. Mirren, like every other engineman and woman, is no longer employed as an engineman since the ability to mind-push a starship is obsolete now that humans can simply step through gates, or interfaces, that link worlds light-years apart. And like every other engineman and woman Mirren is jonesing for the bliss-inducing high produced while mind-pushing a ship through the nada-continuum.
I’ve never read anything by Eric Brown prior to this, but I will admit that when I picked this book up I was looking forward to reading it greatly. For the most part I was not disappointed.
In Engineman, Eric Brown has created what I felt to be a very interesting and engaging story. In a world of advanced technology, what happens when a section of population is made redundant by even newer technology. While this has happened several times throughout history with one industry usurping another, I doubt we ever expect this to happen in the future. It is interesting to see the possible consequences.
Ralph Mirren, the character around which most of the action centres, is a sombre and haunted figure. It’s through Ralph that we get a glimpse into the torture of all enginemen and women. Ralph comes across as a functional addict; one that is forever looking for his next fix, but doomed with the inability to obtain it. At one time being an engineman would have been a blessing, now it is only a curse.
Much of the story is set within the backdrop of Paris, France, and Brown gives the future Paris as much development as any other character. The future Paris has seen its share of hard times and adversity, which gives us a Paris that is at once familiar and alien. In this I think the author has done an excellent job in presenting us with a future that the reader grasps instantly.
While I enjoyed Engineman overall, my only complaint is with the ending. There wasn’t one. At least there wasn’t one that left me satisfied.
To me, just as the story got to a point where some truly interesting things could have happened, we are told it is over. It feels as if Brown, for whatever reason, ran out of steam. It’s too bad because I feel it could have gone one for at least two or three more chapters, if not more.
Maybe I feel this disappointment in the ending because I was enjoying the book up until that point. In any case this non-ending was let down for me.
I want to say I would recommend this book whole-heartedly, but I can’t. I will say that Engineman is a very enjoyable book up to a point, but after that point you will have to draw your own conclusions.