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Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve

Mortal Engines (2001)

by Philip Reeve

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Mortal Engines Quartet (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,843785,385 (3.99)149
  1. 10
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    Predator's Gold by Philip Reeve (joririchardson)
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    The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials, Book 1) by Philip Pullman (passion4reading)
    passion4reading: Intelligent and thought-provoking children's/YA fiction with an unusual premise.
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    The Teacher's Tales of Terror / Traction City: A World Book Day Flip Book by Chris Priestley (ed.pendragon)
    ed.pendragon: Traction City features a young Anna Fang, who subsequently has a major role to play in Mortal Engines and its sequels.
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    Worldshaker by Richard Harland (Maid_Marian)
  9. 00
    Airborn by Kenneth Oppel (Enyonam)

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» See also 149 mentions

English (77)  Dutch (1)  All languages (78)
Showing 1-5 of 77 (next | show all)
Mortal Engines is a bit of a mixed bag, in some ways seeming to stand out from the other young adult dystopian novels but, in others, feeling a bit overfamiliar.

To begin with the positive, the world building of this novel is great. It's not overly science-heavy but presents a compelling steampunk dystopia, set in the distant future where cities are mobile fortresses that have the capability to "eat" each other (capture and strip smaller cities for precious resources and slaves. The result is a highly memorable world, which carries echoes of The Wind Singer, A Brave New World and Mad Max. A lot of the story is set in London - now a multi-story behemoth topped with Saint Paul's Cathedral and largely controlled by two rival guilds - the Historians and the Engineers.

This is a unique and memorable idea that caught my attention from the very first sentence. Unfortunately, the novel still had its problems. Perhaps it is just the fact that I have read so many young adult dystopian stories, but I didn't feel that the plot held many surprises. It was fairly easy to predict the direction that the story would take and the exposition-heavy prose didn't leave a lot to the imagination. I also felt that the focus flitted around a bit too much at times. This is especially true over the climax, where the third person narrative alternated between Tom, Hester and Katherine, sometimes only spending a few paragraphs with each.

Still, at least this novel did end well. The plot nicely wrapped up this stage of the adventure, leaving no noticeable loose threads. The only problem I had was the sheer loss of life over the last few chapters. Virtually every character, good and bad, is killed off, leaving me unsure about where the series will go from here.

On the subject of character, the novel is also a bit varied. While I did find each of the protagonists to be likeable, they were not without their flaws. Tom's inability to grasp the fact that London isn't a paradise, even after everything he witnesses, was annoying but Hester's mercurial moods were a stage worse again. While I understand her desire for vengeance, her abrupt mood swings made her a difficult character to understand.

Still, the female cast did fair better the men on the whole. I loved the charismatic aviatrix, Anna Fang, and Katherine's mission to learn the truth about her father were the subject of most of my favourite chapters. Yet I didn't always feel that the relationships were quite there. We don't really see Hester and Tom growing closer - it just happened. Similarly, Valentine's personality change felt a little abrupt as he doesn't make much of an impression on the novel before this occurs.

Anyhow, that about sums it up. Perhaps I would have enjoyed this novel more if I'd read it back in 2001, but unfortunately it now felt a bit too familiar. The world building is fantastic, but it suffered a little in terms of plot and characterisation. Still, at least I'm now prepared to see the film when it's released later this year. ( )
  ArkhamReviews | Aug 7, 2018 |
Although it was difficult for me to visualize marching cities, I just gave myself over to the outrageous premise of this book, and found it completely charming. The narrator of the audio book did an excellent job. ( )
  fhudnell | Aug 1, 2018 |
I've only read one series with a steampunk setting but I think I like this one better.

Tom Natsworthy is a third tier historian apprentice that lives on the traction city of London. These cities are built to float on top of the ground and absorb other cities. It's a city eat city world. One day after this happens Tom is sent for gut duty which basically means picking up pieces and artifacts that could be used to learn some of Earth's history. He goes down and meets his hero the Guild of Historians, Thaddeus Valentine and his daughter Katherine. When a girl named Hester Shaw tries to murder Thaddeus Tom knocks her out of his way and then chases after her. She jumps off the edge of the city and Tom thinks it's over but when Thaddeus catches up to him he pushes Tom off the city too.

Tom and Hester survive the fall and decide to head back into the city. Hester still wants to kill Valentine and Tom just wants to go home. They journey back on the ground and hitch rides with several people and learn more about what Valentine has done to earn his position in the city plus more about the anti-tractionists that don't think people should live on floating cities.

Meanwhile, on London, Katherine Valentine does her own sleuthing to find the truth about the medusa object that apparently earned her father some favor with the mayor, Magnus Crome to become head of the Guild of Historians. She meets an engineer apprentice Bevis Pod and together they find out more about what the Guild of Engineers is planning to do to their city.

This was a fun adventure that when it was over I just wanted more. I literally only just found out it was a children's book which surprised me because of the ending. It's not a super satisfying ending but one that made me want to continue exploring the world. I liked all the characters especially Anna Fang. I really liked this book so much and I'm so glad this is four books because I want more. ( )
  Jessika.C | Jun 7, 2018 |
Much better than the average book in this genre. Entertaining with a plot that makes sense and admirable characters. A nice break from books that require more concentration or that are simply too dismal for constant consumption. ( )
  abycats | May 11, 2018 |
What I have learned to expect from Philip Reeve after reading the "Fever Crumb" trilogy. Mayhem, satire, clever word play, and understandably unhappy characters. Also death. No David Bowie allusions, this time, though.

My book had the worst, the US cover, with the "Hungry Cities Chronicles" series line.

There are some strong symmetries in this novel. Two daughters, two fathers, two pairs of young lovers, both thrown together by the violent circumstances that they cope with. The contrasts and the similarities are both enjoyable. ( )
  themulhern | Apr 15, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 77 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Philip Reeveprimary authorall editionscalculated
Frankland, DavidIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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It was a dark, blustery afternoon in spring, and the city of London was chasing a small mining town across the dried-out bed of the old North Sea.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Haiku summary
It's Municipal
Darwinism, where cities on
tracks devour towns.
Powerful children's
fiction that ought to be a
must-read for grown-ups.

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060082097, Mass Market Paperback)

London is hunting

The great Traction City lumbers after a small town, eager to strip its prey of all assets and move on. Resources on the Great Hunting Ground that once was Europe are so limited that mobile cities must consume one another to survive, a practice known as Municipal Darwinism.

Tom, an apprentice in the Guild of Historians, saves his hero, Head Historian Thaddeus Valentine, 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 tracks of the city, the sinister plans of London's leaders begin to unfold ...

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:20 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

In the distant future, when cities move about and consume smaller towns, a fifteen-year-old apprentice is pushed out of London by the man he most admires and must seek answers in the perilous Out-Country, aided by one girl and the memory of another.

» see all 10 descriptions

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