by Philip Reeve
Mortal Engines Introduction
In a Nutshell
Peanut butter and chocolate. French fries and chocolate milkshakes. Pretzels and chocolate. Futuristic sci-fi and retro technology (and chocolate). You might think these are pretty different tastes, but take it from us: they go great together.
Steampunk is the genre equivalent of a peanut butter cup. Airships in our post-apocalyptic dystopia? We love it.
Philip Reeve's Predator Cities Quartet is a modern steampunk series you may not have heard of, but we're about to change that.
Originally published in 2001, Mortal Engines went out of print in the U.S. for a few years before steamrolling back into bookstores with a vengeance in 2012. This book kicks off the four-volume Predator Cities Quartet, a twenty-year saga of the world set in a time when cities have wheels, airships rule the skies, and resources are scarce (source).
Philip Reeve was an illustrator before he became an author, and his imagination for striking images really shows, all the way from his characters—like Grike, a cyborg stalker with only murder on his mind—to the setting, a half-mile-high version of London on tank treads. Mortal Engines was Reeve's first novel, and it even won a few awards (source).
We can see why: the award-givers were scared of getting crushed by a giant rolling fortress.
There have been movie rumors swirling around Mortal Engines like an out-of-control airship, but nothing's materialized yet. We can totally see this film being a big hit, a combination of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and Howl's Moving Castle. Now that would be a blockbuster force to be reckoned with.
This series actually has a lot in common with the incredible His Dark Materials series, which you may have read: there's a kid-versus-the-world storyline, a fantastic setting, shrewd commentary on religion (Mortal Engines is much subtler about it), and both are written by witty Brits named Philip. How can you go wrong?
Why Should I Care?
If you've ever found yourself reading a Charles Dickens novel and thinking, "You know what would make this so much better? Airships and cyborgs!"—then you're in luck. Mortal Engines has all the social drama of the Dickensiest Dickensian novel, but with a heaping helping of sci-fi action.
Mortal Engines has all of Dickens's classic hallmarks: social inequality; terrible working conditions; and orphans, orphans, orphans. Sure, you budding social justice warriors can sign up for the Philosophy and Social Criticism journal, but it's probably not going to have any lasers, missiles, or swordfights in it, now, is it? Have a little fun with your social commentary, and take a ride with Mortal Engines.