Cover of the first edition
|Cover artist||Gary Friedman|
|Genre||Science fiction novel|
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
|LC Class||PZ4.C9533 En PS3553.R597|
Engine Summer is a novel by John Crowley, published in 1979 by Doubleday. It was nominated for the 1980 National Book Award for hardcover science fiction, as well as both the British Fantasy and John W. Campbell Awards the same year. It was rewritten from Crowley's unpublished first novel, "Learning to Live With It."
The novel tells the story of a young man named Rush that Speaks and of his wandering through a strange, post-apocalyptic world in pursuit of several seemingly incompatible goals.
The story is set in a post-technological future. Our own age is dimly remembered in story and legend, but without nostalgia or regret. The people of Rush's world are engaged in living their own lives in their own cultures. Words and artifacts from our own time survive into Rush's age, suggesting that it is only a few millennia in our future. Yet we are given hints that human society and even human biology are significantly changed. Even such basics as reproduction and eating have been altered, one by industrial-age genetic tampering, the other by contact with extraterrestrial life.
Rush comes of age in Little Belaire, a mazelike village of invisible, shifting boundaries, of secret paths and meandering stories and antique bric-a-brac carefully preserved in carved chests. The inhabitants are divided into clans called cords based on personality traits. Over the centuries, the people of Little Belaire have perfected an art which they call truthful speaking: communication so clear and accurate, so "transparent", as to leave no potential for deception or misunderstanding. Perhaps as a result of this practice, Little Belaire appears to be free of any violence or even serious competition. Another result of truthful speaking is the existence of the saints, those whose stories speak not only of the specifics of their own lives, but about the human condition. Yet even with the benefit of truthful speaking, secrets and mysteries remain.
Rush's journey is set in motion when the girl he loves, Once a Day, elopes from Little Belaire to join another group, an enigmatic society called Dr. Boots's List. In his search for her, Rush befriends a hermit and an "avvenger" and shares the secrets of the List. Ultimately he discovers a transparent sainthood stranger than any story told by the gossips of Little Belaire.