Friday, 3 April 2009

Fever Crumb - Philip Reeve

Read: March 2009

Fever Crumb in one tweet sized chunk:

An exciting addition to the Mortal Engines canon, with an unexpected and fabulous treat for anyone who loved the Stalker Shrike.

Named after the condition her mother suffered when she was pregnant, Fever is the only girl ever to be admitted to the Guild of Engineers, having been found and adopted by Dr. Crumb when she was just a little baby. Now fourteen, she shaves her head daily, values reason above all else, and has never ventured further than the streets around the Enginerium. But when a former Engineer named Kit Solent asks her to assist him in excavating a new site on the outskirts of London, Fever moves out of the safety of her home and finds that everything she has believed about her life is built on fabrication. And so, whilst fleeing from the clutches of Skinners who wish to kill her and dealing with the strange memories taking over her brain, she must uncover the truth about her past before it is too late.

Set many generations before Mortal Engines, Fever Crumb provides an enticing pre-history to the adventures of Hester and Tom. London is a normal stationary city, wracked with internal division and only days away from war. An armoured fortresses advances from the North, bringing hysteria to the streets of London and reviving old hatreds thought long resolved. But unbeknownst to everyone, hidden in a tunnel deep underground is a machine which will transform the world forever. If only someone can work out how to unlock it.

Fever Crumb is a welcome addition to the Mortal Engines canon. It is filled with many of the same qualities which made the other books such a joy. There is the playful mythologizing of our everyday life which sees ‘Cheesers Crice’ become an old Cockney God, St. Kylie now an area of London, and an old vacuum cleaner mistaken for a dangerous weapon. Philip Reeve has a wicked sense of humour; his books are some of the funniest I have ever read. And they are complex too. Once more he is able to create delightfully morally ambiguous characters you like and dislike all in the same breath. There are ‘baddies’ who are almost likeable, ‘goodies’ you can’t help but revile, and most of the others lie somewhere in between. London is populated with these rogues, Dickensian in feel, surrounding by steampunk technology and crumbling, damp streets. It is familiar, and yet generations away from the sky travelling, city hunting world of Mortal Engines.

Well aware of its Mortal Engines legacy, Fever Crumb plays games with what its readers know is going to happen later on. There is one point where Dr. Crumb sneers at the idea of ‘municipal Darwinism,’ completely disregarding the idea of an entire city being put on wheels. It is a glorious destruction of the basis of the later books. At other times these links are made just a touch too obvious, but that is probably a result of the fact that Fever Crumb is aimed at a slightly younger audience than the rest of the series. The print is bigger, the plot slightly quicker. It is a nice easy read, and just what I needed.

With a surprise treat in store for all fans of the series, Fever Crumb is an enjoyable read, sure to be well received when it by fans and critics when it is published in May.

7 out of 10

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