Friday, 10 April 2009

Mortal Engines - Philip Reeve

Read: October 2007

Thousands of years in the future, London has become a Traction City, an anthropomorphised metropolis on wheels which stalks the plains of the hunting ground (formerly Europe) in search of smaller cities to eat. For years it has been hiding in what was once the British Isles, building its defences and avoiding bigger prey, but now it has crossed the land bridge and is in search of food.

Within the city lives Tom, a young apprentice historian with an obsession for adventure. Then there is Katherine, the daughter of one of London’s most celebrated citizens and Tom’s hero, the explorer, archaeologist and adventurer Valentine. But soon Hester Shaw appears, appallingly scarred and with murderous revenge blazing in her eyes - and her target is Valentine himself.

As London scampers across the hunting ground and prepares to launch a fantastic new weapon known only as MEDUSA, events within its walls take disturbing twists which will soon propel Tom, Hester and Katherine into adventurers they never saw coming, but which may determine the future of the entire world. And Valentine has been sent on a secret mission, from which nobody can contact him.

What a great imagination Philip Reeve has. Where many authors would have satisfied themselves with the brilliant idea of Traction Cities, he goes the extra mile, developing an entire historico-philosophical justification for their existence. Municipal Darwinism it is called and is that extra touch of depth which turns a brilliantly exciting adventure into a really believable world in which you feel like you can almost touch the characters. It is a concept at once both exhilarating and terrifying; seen first through the eyes of Tom it is the ultimate adventure; the excitement of the chase, the celebration of the kill. But like Darwinism, it is also thoroughly cutthroat and merciless. It is both post apocalyptically barbarian, and technologically advanced. In a barren world where land animals seem extinct the Traction Cities roam the plains in search of a kill.

Mortal Engines
is everything you could want in a teenage fantasy/adventure. It is well written, exciting, jammed full of intriguing ideas, and each of the characters is strong and individual and likeable. Even the truly horrible ones. As the first in a quartet of novels spanning the entire world and twenty years Mortal Engines is a series to really get your teeth into. Like all the best children’s fiction it is dark and at times quite remorseless: characters are alive one minute and dead the next, tragedies strike out of nowhere and endings are always tinged with remourse.

If you buy this book today, I am certain you will soon be buying Predator’s Gold, Infernal Devices and A Darkling Plain. This is a series to enjoy for weeks to come.

8 out of 10

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