Reviews of The Gods and their Machines
'Unfamiliar though these conflicting peoples may be, the technologically superior Altimans and the rural economic Bartokhrians, yet this novel deals with the all too familiar issues of racism, ethnic prejudice, fanaticism, the dead weight of history, atrocity and retaliation. And it deals with them credibly, dramatically and with insight into the political awakening of the two central boy and girl characters who have to overcome their own prejudices as they struggle to draw their world back from the brink of doom. A credible, gripping and valuable story for our or any age.’
Children’s Books Ireland, Shortlisted for the Bisto Award - Winner of a Bisto Merit Award 2005.
Shortlisted, along with The Harvest Tide Project, for the Reading Association of Ireland Award. The first time that an author has had two novels on the same shortlist.
'This excellent novel is a fantasy, yet every word of it has direct and understated relevance for our own political world ... The novel is chiefly a fast-paced, tense and highly convincing thriller. But McGann's impeccably fair-minded and intelligent hints at parallels with Israel and Palestine, or America and the Middle East, or the secular west and Islam, are impossible to miss, and his even-handed narrative is all the more effective in consequence. Exciting as fantasy adventure, thoughtful in present-day relevance, the book is a fine achievement and is strongly recommended.'
Peter Hollindale, The School Librarian magazine
'Completely fantastical yet totally relevant. A talented new voice... Spellbinding.'
'A pacy, action-filled plot with very real characters facing gripping dilemmas'
'Original, intelligent fantasy with plenty of contemporary relevance.’
Celia Rees, author of Pirates!
'...the author plucks our unpleasant present-day news headlines and encapsulates them into a thrilling tale which is all the more chilling for its recognizable sources of terrorism, racism, suicide bombers, to name a few.
The fantasy world, part high tech and part ancient weaponry and beliefs, is an ugly echo of where we are now. McGann has created a clever, sharply constructed novel with credible characters and dialogue and tension-filled action. An excellent read.’
Mary Arrigan, The Sunday Tribune
'Clearly of its political time, it is a superbly evoked account of a clash of cultures... Literary excellence.'
'An exciting and well plotted debut novel.'
'McGann’s parable focuses on the misunderstandings and entrenched hatred... that puts entire peoples behind barricades. [He] indicates that the real destructive power lies in the fermenting of explosive experience coming from the past. A challenging read for a thoughtful young person.’
The Irish Times
'New Irish writer, Oisín McGann has created a believable world, but best of all, believable characters, ones you’d like to know.’
'... An eminently readable adventure story, with a gripping plot that’s firmly rooted in current reality.’
'This book remedies a lamentable lack in the SF genre: novels that attempt to deal with the post-9/11 landscape in a thoughtful fashion... McGann pulls off his project tremendously well... In the style of Ursula Le Guin, he creates truly tangible cultures that are just differently similar enough, or similarly different enough, to their real-world models to stand in for them while still generating the proper distancing effects that allow the reader to see an old situation in a new light... McGann's politics are subtle and deep. But that would not matter if he did not deliver deft characterization and suspenseful action - which he does in spades. On the basis of this debut book, McGann is a name to watch.’ Paul Di Filippo, Science Fiction Weekly.
'A timely and thought provoking read not only for the teens it is marketed to but also for adult fans of science fiction.’
'The action hurtles forward deliciously, and the alternating narratives build sympathies for both protagonists as they grapple with "a situation so big and so brutal that there was no way to make sense of it." The real-world parallels with Western secularism and the more traditional societies of the Middle East are clear, but McGann's facility with both character and world building makes this impressive debut as rewarding as pure fantasy as it is as provocative allegory.’
Jennifer Mattson, American Library Association.
'A heartfelt indictment of the way developed nations treat their less developed neighbours. It resonates particularly with the England-Ireland and Israel-Palestine conflicts and warns of what might happen elsewhere (e.g., US-Mexico). Many stories in this vein end with boy and girl in each other’s arms and a promise of happily ever after, at least for them and perhaps for their families and nations. Not this time though, McGann has shown himself suspiciously fond of punning on precedent. So when at the very end Riadni gasps and cries, "Take me higher!" he may be playing one more round of Joycean double-entendre. Recommended.’
Tom Easton, Analog Science Fiction And Fact, www.analogsf.com
'Original and thrilling fantasy novel. A compelling read that echoes the terrorist wars waged in our own times.’
The Irish Post
'A vigorous and intelligent fantasy with modern political and religious connections. There are moments of writing brilliance. An accomplished work of fiction, by a writer in control of both his materials and his readers.’
Cross Currents (IBBY Ireland’s guide to multicultural books for young people).
'This book is written in an easy to read, light format but it cleverly hides a deep understanding and discussion of very difficult and relevant topics and ideas. McGann doesn't preach but uses both characters of Chamus and Riadni to explore difficult moral issues and concepts. This is a wonderful book. My only qualm is it's too short. The world McGann creates is realistic, as are the characters and the dilemmas they face. I just hope he goes onto write a lot more books like this.’
Phil Jones, SF Crowsnest.com
'While The Gods and Their Machines deals with imaginary cultures and technologies, the underlying internal and external struggles are indistinguishable from the conflicts broadcast on the nightly news. The hallmark of quality science fiction is that it provides a reflection of our current world through the mirror of the fantastical story, and this novel doesn't disappoint.’
Lorie Witkop, www.curledupkids.com
'If teens are able and willing to read novels like this, then there's hope for the world yet.’
'This book has all the ingredients to make it one of your science fiction favourites: originality, intelligence and contemporary relevance.’
The Evening Echo
'The weird and wacky is combined with the complex emotion and adventure to give birth to an exciting read.’
Irish Farmers Monthly
'Short listed for this year's Bisto Book of the Year Awards, The Gods and their Machines is a first novel by Oisín McGann - and what an impressive and assured debut it is.
'It is set in the dominating state of Altima which is embroiled in conflict with its oppressed fundamentalist neighbours, in an obvious parallel with events in the real word.
'However, it would demeaning to Mr McGann's achievement to limit one's appreciation of his book to the consideration of such parallels. He has created an individual landscape, populated by strongly drawn characters. 'There are stunning action set-pieces that transport us beyond levels of mere comparison, as we follow the adventures of teenager Chamus, who is forced to crash-land in enemy territory, and his meeting with Riadni, a girl from the opposite side of the divide. She is bound by the cultural and religious demands of her community, but discovers that there are no absolutes in the struggle in which she is embroiled. This is thought-provoking stuff, and a rattling good adventure story where good and bad is never clear-cut and the question of survival has many ethical problems to resolve.’
Tony Hickey The Village Magazine
'It is all too easy in young adult fiction to get all preachy and didactic, talking down to young readers as if they need Life Lessons underlined in bright red crayon. (This will be on the test, kids.) It takes a skilled writer indeed to tell socially relevant and thought-provoking stories for young readers while avoiding pretentiousness. Oisin McGann, happily, is just such a writer, with a gift for marrying high adventure storytelling to topical themes. The Gods and Their Machines is an allegory about the never-ending conflict between Israel and Palestine, but in a sense it could be a story about any period in human history in which imperialist, advanced societies have lorded it over their less developed neighbors...
'There could have been so many ways in which the story could have gone all wrong at this point, lapsing into mawkishness, sermonizing and false sentiment. McGann skirts all of these temptations, while delivering the scenes you pretty much expect to see (arguments over culture clashes and whose fault the war is) with class. What is most admirable about the book is that, like the present day turmoil McGann is referencing, the situation has by now spiralled so far out of hand that it's no longer about who's to blame. Both sides are at fault, with more than enough blame to go around. Both sides have become blinded by ideology, their obsession with winning having totally obscured the fact that the war cannot be won, only stopped. While so much fiction about war (whether pro or anti) is simplistically jingoistic, McGann paints an effective portrait of war's senselessness, regardless of causes or blame.
'There are a few fumbles in the execution. The book has at least two endings, and its ultimate resolution is a little pat, though in the hands of a lesser writer, one quails at the thought of how vomitrociously "can't we all just get along?" sentimental it could have gotten. The Gods and Their Machines turns out to be the rare sort of solid YA fiction that appeals just as well to adults, and gets its job done much better than many similar stories by its adult-fiction counterparts.’
T.M. Wagner SF Reviews.net
'In The Gods and Their Machines, Oisin McGann has created a powerful fantasy which touches on the most relevant issues of the day. By alternating between Riadni and Chamus, McGann favours neither side over the other. His young protagonists are both close to the factions who wish to perpetuate the war, but their youth makes them able to view the world from another angle.
'This is a powerful novel, with a number of very gritty scenes despite the somewhat fantastic setting. The issues involved would recommend it more for older readers, but it is a tense adventure thriller rather than a political sermon.’
Luke Slater, Writeaway
Rating: 5 out of 5 shamrocks - 'Good Books are like Onions; they have Layers.’
'This book works on so many levels that it is very difficult to categorise it. After reading the blurb I just assumed it would be transparent allegory of our modern world that would be fitting and perhaps enlightening reading for a young teenager. After a few pages I realised the disservice I had done Mr McGann. His debut novel does not simply act as a fable, but as a deep and searching exploration of fanaticism, dogmatism, stereotyping, simple human nature, and, of course, everyday human concerns. This book is one that I have started to use in my English classes. Less able students get an interesting and well written tale. Those with better grasp of the language are challenged and encouraged to think, ponder, and ultimately grow, thanks to this text.’
An Irish Christmas