Study Guide

Mortal Engines Setting

By Philip Reeve


The Great Traction City of London, The Future

Rollin' Rollin' Rollin', Keep Those Cities Rollin'...

After the Ancients (that's us present-day folk—man, we feel old) blow themselves up in the Sixty Minute War, nuclear catastrophe unlike anything the world has ever seen or will ever see again, few people survive. It seems like the United States has been completely eradicated, and most places in Europe and Asia survive only by being mobile. Airships and traction cities—giant cities that roll around on tank treads—are the new thing.

Most of the action takes place in London, a giant—but by no means the largest—traction city. London survives by rolling around and eating other cites, and by trying to avoid getting eaten by even larger ones. It's like the game Feeding Frenzy, but on land.

This London is the London you know and love, with famous landmarks like St. Paul's Cathedral and districts like Cheapside; it just has giant tank treads and huge metal jaws slapped onto it. (What, no googly eyes?) Plus, it's not even in England anymore. Cities have had to go back to hunter-gatherer lifestyles in the post-apocalypse. We're talking about hunting smaller cities and gathering the loot.

This whole Predator Cities idea is a consequence of nuclear war as well as of the dangers of continuous conurbation. Can a city, like a person, ever grow too large to survive? Will cities eventually have to get up and move? In other words, do cities need to go on The Biggest Loser: Entire City Edition to avoid an early demise?

That's how the cities in this book roll, and by roll, we mean roll.