Saturday, 27 January 2018

Mortal Engines [Mortal Engines Quartet #1] - Phillip Reeve

Title - Mortal Engines
Author - Phillip Reeve


London is Hunting!

The great Traction City lumbers after a small town, eager to strip its prey of all assets and move on. In the not-so-distance future, mobile cities consume one another to survive, a practice known as Municipal Darwinism.

Tom, an apprentice in the Guild of Historians, saves his hero from a murder attempt by the Mysterious Hester Shaw - only to find himself thrown from the city and stranded with Hester in the Out Country. As they struggle to follow the city, the sinister plans of London's leaders begin to unfold...


Nothing pushes me to dust off a book and give it a read than it being adapted into a film, and this is no different. I tried to read it a few years ago without much success, which has more to do with my own personal laziness rather than the quality of this book.

Mortal Engines is the quintessential dieselpunk book of our generation; it flawlessly combines a diesel-based retro futuristic technology with the backstory that left mankind scattered in the remnants of a nuclear irradiated earth, and asks the one question that you have wondered your whole life: What if cities just… got up?

After the devastating 60 Minute War, humanity was thrown back to a dark age of technology and for thousands of years has scrabbled in the dirt to gather enough old-world tech to win the only evolutionary race that now matters: Municipal Darwinism. Simply put, a world where city eats city, the strong prey on the weak and drag them into the hungry jaws of a city on the move. Reading this book, I got a serious case of “How freaking awesome is that!”. I haven’t been this excited about a concept for a long time. Not to mention the gloriousness that is the phrase ‘Municipal Darwinism’ - it takes the simple idea of the survival of the fittest and subverts the idea to describe cities engaging in a seemingly eternal battle for existence.

The heroes of this book, Tom Nastworthy and Hester Shaw, are two very different but equally brilliant narrative glimpses into the Mortal Engines world. Tom is a London born city dweller who engages with the devouring of other cities with much vigour and enthusiasm. To him, Municipal Darwinism is not only a way of life, it’s simply the right way of life. Although your natural reaction to this carnage and implied slavery might be a certain level of disdain and abject horror, Reeves does an incredible job of forcing the reader to really think about what your view might be had you been raised as Tom had. Hester on the other hand presents the flip side of the argument – she is as horrified of the traction cities and their ruthless practice as we might be. To me, she presents the voice of the audience; her idea of savage nations are not the cities that choose to plant their mobile bodies in the ground and remain in motion as Tom might think, but those roaming cities that are consuming each other to extinction.

I really appreciate Reeve’s effort in creating Hester, she is a hell of a strong character and unlike a lot of young adult books I have read in the past she doesn’t spend the duration of the book feeling sorry for herself and being led by the hand through the plot. She is as much the driving force of the story as her male counterpart and I really appreciate that. This doesn’t necessarily mean that she automatically deserves the strong independent female character badge just yet, much like a lot of ‘bad ass women’ she has been awarded a tragic backstory solely for the purpose of excusing her eternal hostility to basically everybody and her extremely violent tendencies. Still, you take your good with your mediocre I suppose.

The only real criticism I have for this book is perhaps the pace of the story – this book might as well be strapped to the end of one of those running cities as it burns through story and characters as if they are a dime a dozen. I would have appreciated a slightly slower pace and a more detailed exploration of some of the characters we encountered. 

Overall, however, the story is very well driven, with a plethora of interesting characters that keep it from becoming stale. It builds a magnificent and original world which I would thoroughly recommend if you are looking for an afternoon of fun reading.

Product Details
Hardback, 293 pages
Publisher: Scholastic
Language: English
Author's Website:
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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