Title: Mortal Engines
Author: Philip Reeve
Genre: Fantasy/ Steampunk/ Adventure
Publication date: 2001
The great traction city London has been skulking in the hills to avoid the bigger, faster, hungrier cities loose in the Great Hunting Ground. But now, the sinister plans of Lord Mayor Mangus Crome can finally unfold.
Thaddeus Valentine, London’s Head Historian and adored famous archaeologist, and his lovely daughter, Katherine, are down in The Gut when the young assassin with the black scarf strikes toward his heart, saved by the quick intervention of Tom, a lowly third-class apprentice. Racing after the fleeing girl, Tom suddenly glimpses her hideous face: scarred from forehead to jaw, nose a smashed stump, a single eye glaring back at him. “Look at what your Valentine did to me!” she screams. “Ask him! Ask him what he did to Hester Shaw!” And with that she jumps down the waste chute to her death. Minutes later Tom finds himself tumbling down the same chute and stranded in the Out-Country, a sea of mud scored by the huge caterpillar tracks of cities like the one now steaming off over the horizon.
In a stunning literary debut, Philip Reeve has created a painful dangerous unforgettable adventure story of surprises, set in a dark and utterly original world fueled by Municipal Darwinism — and betrayal
Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve was something unexpected. I have to admit that I didn’t hear about it until I saw the movie. Most of you would say, and I would agree with you usually, that the book is always better than the movie. Well, in this case I am not entirely sure.
Now that I finished the book I realize that the movie was waaaay off the book plot and half of the things in it never happened in the book but it was thrilling, interesting and I think the choices in the movie script were super cool. Don’t get me wrong, the book has its awesome moments (most of which made it into the movie) but I am not sure if it was the third omniscient point of view or the whole sum of differences but it didn’t fully work for me.
But let’s get into it a bit more.
The story develops into the future where life as we know it is gone. Cities now represent giant moving machines called ‘predator cities’ who eat scrap metal (or other smaller towns) and minerals from the ground to keep moving. Almost everybody lives in such cities as part of different guilds. The ones that do not are called scavengers or Anti-Tractionists (the people who live in static settlements). The world Philip Reeve creates is truly amazing and very unique. I was super curious to learn more about it and not so surprisingly, my favorite scenes involved world-building descriptions.
Our story follows Thomas, a Third-Class Apprentice Historian who finds himself at the wrong place at a wrong time. After preventing an assassination attempt over Thaddeus Valentine, Head of the Guild of Historians and one of the most important people in London, Thomas goes after the assassin only to find a grotesquely deformed girl in pursuit of revenge for her parents’ death. But it turns out that her thirst for Valentine’s blood is the least of Thomas’ worries as he is pushed off the city and forced to work with her to survive out in the wilderness. They go through an serious of misfortunes as they try to get back to the city of London.
The story has a lot of cool locations and interesting story lines but my biggest problem were the characters. I don’t want to spoil much of the story for you if you have not yet read it but for me all the characters felt over the top. Like drama queens with bipolar disorders.
In the movie I liked Hester (the wanna-be assassin) because they portrayed her as determined, resourceful and fierce. In the book, unfortunately, she is not nearly as interesting. Thomas was even more whiny and childish. I realize they are barely fifteen or so but c’mon, they threw tantrums like four-year-olds and and changed their motivations more times than I cared to count.
I think I am biased when it comes to the book since the movie didn’t follow it so don’t take my word alone. And if you can, read the book first before watching the movie – this is the correct way to do things, not like me. This way a movie(good or bad) can’t spoil a book for you.
That being said I’ll give the book a 3/5 rating for the awesome idea behind it and and it really made me think bold and out of the box with my own ideas.
What about you? What rating would you give? What are your thoughts and takes on Mortal Engines?