Engine Summer Analysis
by John Crowley

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The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

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Looming behind the narrative is a legendary story of humankind before the Storm. While those known as the angels vigorously pursued technological advancement, the Long League, led by its matriarchs, tried to counter the ill effects. Taking a third option, the people of Big Belaire avoided technological conflict by taking to the Road and finally building the Warren. When the Storm came (whether it was ecological disaster or warfare, or both, is unclear), the angels departed Earth in their flying city, their proudest achievement, leaving the rest of humankind behind in isolated pockets.

The story opens with Rush that Speaks, a disembodied voice, telling his story to the angels. The voice belongs to an imprint of the original Rush’s memory, personality, and consciousness, recorded in one of the angels miraculous machines. The actual Rush lived six hundred years earlier, in an era that was itself several generations after the Storm.

Rush’s story is a detailed account of humankinds survival on Earth after the Storm. It begins in his birthplace, the Warren, a settlement that strives to live within human limits and in harmony with nature and whose chief virtue is telling the truth. Periodically, the people known as Dr. Boots’s List, who claim to be descendants of the Long League, visit the Warren to trade, especially for St. Beas bread, an organic substance that promotes a sense of well-being and unity with the environment.

Once a Day, Rush’s adolescent love, leaves with Dr. Boots’s List. He follows her a year later. Before searching for her, he spends a year with Blink, a hermit who has collected books and other artifacts from the angel ruins.

After virtually sleeping through winter in Blinks treehouse, Rush moves on, walking over the Road, the crumbling interstate highway system. When he finds Dr. Boots’s List on the Road, Once a Day is with them. He accompanies the group to Service City, where they live with their giant cats in a ruined angel building.

Each member of Dr. Boots’s List routinely receives a letter from Dr. Boots. When Rush asks for his letter, he is taken to a machine that allows him to enter into the mind of a recorded personality. The experience leaves him feeling a sweet simplicity that is beyond the...

(The entire section is 595 words.)