This belongs to the popular (and populated) genre of post-apocalyptic SF, but is very different from most such stories. The world Crowley draws for us is mostly empty and peaceful - the reasons for which become clear if you read on. I am not sure I would rate it as a classic, hence four stars instead of five, but it is beautifully written and the strange social and mental landscape Crowley's protagonist inhabits wraps the reader thoroughly. Also, there's a good bit for cat-lovers, among which I am proud to count myself.
Crowley is a unique author and I would rate this right up with 'Little, Big' as a genuinely unique contribution to SF. The key themes reference our relationship with technology and the changing of humanity, as well as the power of storytelling and myth-making. The ending of this book, which initially I found slightly disappointing, is in fact gentle, deep, moving and meaningful, sad and hopeful - it ultimately stayed with me for a long time.
Engine Summer is evidently one of those "Marmite" books - you either love it, or you don't. Unfortunately I fall into the latter category, finding it quite hard to follow. A frustrating and difficult read, it's easy to lose track of what's going on. I've heard it called poetic and beautiful, but sadly for me, it was just confusing.
Sluggish and largely uneventful, I found this book to lean more towards fantasy rather than science fiction. However, there is some lovely imagery in the writing, and the scenario is very interesting indeed - there are some great 'visual' moments and some lovely ideas, sadly marred by the cumbersome and confusing dialogue and writing style.
One of Crowley's earliest published works, this shows his promise as an author of "literary SF" (yeah, I know). If you like Russell Hoban and classic Arthur C. Clarke, you'll like this book. If you're looking for Crowley's best, look to "Little, Big" or his Aegypt cycle. Then come back to this book and see the genesis of his style.
I have rated this book on the basis of how much I enjoyed it, which was not much. Perhaps a higher score is appropriate if you're into cleverly written books, but I just found it too much hard work and a bit slow going. I just wanted the book to tell a story that I could understand!
I bought this book in the belief that it was essentially about people in a post-apocalyptic North America trying to make sense of the long dead civilisation that roughly corresponds to our present day. That's one aspect of the story, and it was interesting trying to interpret the objects and situation that the protagonist was describing, given his limited understanding. However, there are so many weird ideas floating around and so many unexplained or obscure concepts that I was glad that the book's quite short.
I was also lead to believe that the ending was fantastic so I stuck with it. However, I thought it was a bit rushed, introducing new characters and strands to the story too quickly. I felt it was disappointing, but given the many positive reviews I found on various websites, maybe I missed something. It just a shame that I can't find a decent explanation anywhere about what it all actually meant...