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Mortal Engines

by Philip Reeve

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Mortal Engines Quartet (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,3381133,536 (3.84)176
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.
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  6. 00
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  9. 00
    The Teacher's Tales of Terror / Traction City 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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» See also 176 mentions

English (112)  Dutch (1)  All languages (113)
Showing 1-5 of 112 (next | show all)
Rather enjoyed it, will definitely be getting the next one. ( )
  KayleeWin | Apr 19, 2023 |
Ever since I saw a Cinemex trailer of Peter Jackson's live action adaptation of this book, I was instantly excited and really wanted to see the movie in theaters. Unfortunately, they decided to premiere the movie on January 1st, the one day I had to work during the holidays, and I never had the chance to see it in cinemas.

I did see the film several months later, and while I really liked the concept of motorized cities creating havoc, it did have several flaws that I believe were factors in the film's less-than-stellar success in the box office.

However, I was adamant in reading the original book, but I wanted to read it in English instead of Spanish. Last week I managed to purchase a copy of the paperback in English and I just finished reading it.

The verdict: The book is definitely better than the film. I also have a hard time believing it is a "kid friendly" YA romp. The book is so dark at times with prisoners being brutally beaten to death and animals being ruthlessly killed that it seems more like a grimdark book nestled in a dystopian futuristic world than a kiddie adventure steampunk story. In a way, I think the book is much better this way because it takes on a lot of risks that were sorely missed in the film.

Mortal Engines stars the naive and somewhat clumsy Tom Natsworthy, a second class citizen of motorized London learning the awnings of the Historian profession as a sort of severance pay from the city because his parents were killed in a freak accident. He likes history and is staunchly in favor of London eating up smaller cities, but a part of him feels like there is something out there for him. During a routine devouring of a small mining town, Tom accompanies his idol and chief Historian Mr. Valentine to the deeper levels of the city to recover any valuable old technology. As the city interviews the engulfed survivors of the fallen town, Tom meets a mysterious and horribly disfigured teenage woman named Hester who will change his life forever...

I do not wish to spoil much of the plot, but rather compare the book against the film. For starters, this book would have been infinitely awesome and an instant cult favorite had it been directed by Guillermo del Toro. He would not have shied away from Hester's ruinous face that was missing an eye and nose, and filled the screen with carefully designed mechanical props that came to life in the screen. While I can understand the film adaptation decided to skip the Tunbridge pirate town plot detour to save money, I believe it suffered a lot by leaving Katherine as a menial filler character who was shown for the first 5 minutes of the film when she plays as the voice of reason within the lunacy of London's hunger to destroy other cities and render themselves as a superior superpower when they are no better than the pirates by enslaving people in the engine rooms and killing prisoners in abominable ways.

I feel like the movie felt... safe. While it delightfully features Tom and Hester's bustling love in a cute but quirky way (not to mention I liked how the film humanizes Shrike a lot more than the book), the film skips pivotal issues such as the rampant food shortages and Tom's growth as a character when his near escapades from slavery makes him realize how much of a hypocrite he truly was and the way he starts to hate himself because he realizes Hester is the one truly genuine person he had ever met... once you get used to her anger issues and maimed face.

I feel sad that the movie scrapped off the character of Beavis Pod, he was my favorite and a deserving supporting character during Katherine's adventures in the city.

Now, the book has issues I didn't fully enjoy. Page 184 states Beavis meets a high ranking Historian and never mentions his surname. During his daring escape, Mr Pomeroy addresses him by his surname Pod even though they had never met each other before and Beavis is just some nobody from a slum. I can be forgiving of continuity mistakes and even a lot of grammar errors in indie books because authors can't always afford the fees of editors, but Mortal Engines was published by a major big 5 publisher!!! I also felt like the book was missing a lot of commas as well. I also felt like I had to knock a half star from this book because some chapters for no reason whatsoever decide to switch between present and past tense. It felt distracting. One final complaint which isn't of the actual book per se but something I wish to vent about: the Mexican editions of the book are quite nice looking and the materials quite sturdy. Unfortunately, the Scholastic cover is insanely flimsy and creases appear with a minimum amount of effort. For a book costing 9.99, I know some corners have to be cut, but I do believe the book deserves a sturdier cover. I would have been more than happy to spend more cash if it meant the book wouldn't get damaged so easily.

All in all, I would definitely love to read the sequel books and see where the plot goes. ( )
  chirikosan | Jan 27, 2023 |
By the end, I liked this a lot more than I did in the beginning. I almost stopped reading but soldiered on because I'm reading it for my teen book club and I'm always nagging them about finishing books even if they don't like them. (Only for book clubs though. I don't finish books I don't like if I'm just reading them for myself.) I see why this was made into a movie because the end of the book is made for cinematic climaxes. The character development was minimal but as the book progresses I did come to care about the characters like Tom and Hester but also for secondary characters like Anna Fang. The world-building was also vague and disorienting. A far future dystopia where cities, suburbs, and towns ride around the earth consuming smaller cities and towns for their own survival. Why was not made clear but an interesting concept. The anti-Tractionists living behind a wall in sedentary communities provides the dramatic tension. I loved Reeve's Fever Crumb series but stopped reading the first book in the Railhead series. ( )
  Dairyqueen84 | Mar 15, 2022 |
A fairly decent romp in a far flung future where cities have been turned mobile and eating each other for so long that they've started to starve, having sucked all the resources that they could from other cities.

There are pirates, zombie cyborg ninjas, vague and light political intrigue, sacrifice, questioning your parents or just losing them altogether. So pretty much like Katamari Damacy I guess.

It's generally a light punchy read where two of the main characters journey around the world, bouncing from one situation to the next.

The parts where the novel decided to go I to present tense rather than past tense are painful, though I'm not sure why. These tend to be scenes that the younger characters are not aware of and it seems jarring.

It's a pretty inoffensive steampunky romp. ( )
  urbaer | Mar 5, 2022 |
Es como las novelas juveniles normales, tienen una idea muy buena pero no lo analizan muy profundamente. Los personajes me parecieron planos sin una evolución notablemente visible. La historia no me impacta demasiado hasta el final, no fue bien rematado para mi. ( )
  Enzokolis | Jan 17, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 112 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (40 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Philip Reeveprimary authorall editionscalculated
Edwards, BarnabyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Frank, RobertNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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Wikipedia in English


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.

No library descriptions found.

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.

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Average: (3.84)
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