Study Guide

Mortal Engines Quotes

  • Violence

    [Herbert] enjoyed picking on Tom, who was small and shy and had no friends to stick up for him. (1.23)

    Hmm, Herbert is seen as a bully from the beginning of the story; however, this is exactly what the town of London does (it picks on smaller towns) in order to survive. Would Darwin approve of bullying?

    Melliphant's fist hit him on the side of the face and Melliphant's knee crashed up hard between his legs. (1.40)

    Okay, this isn't exactly fighting fair, but was Tom's sucker punch that started the fight any nobler? Is one form of violence worse than any other?

    [Hester] suddenly sprang forward, whipping out a long, thin-bladed knife. (2.42)

    This image of Hester is startling similar to the image of a snake springing forward with its fangs bared. In the animal kingdom, violence is often the only way to solve a problem. When was the last time you saw a tiger and a zebra talk out a problem? Perhaps violence gets us in touch with our primal roots.

    [Hester] was riding a wave of memory and it was carrying her backward to the night, that room, and the blood that had spattered her mother's star charts like the map of a new constellation. (6.18)

    Yikes. That's a potent memory. It's also strangely beautiful. As movies like Sin City and 300 have shown us, violence can be strangely beautiful, in a way.

    "If they are alive, kill them. Bring their bodies to me." (7.22)

    Magnus Crome is pretty cold. It's important to realize that he's talking about Tom and Hester here, who are barely older than fifteen. Why doesn't he go with a non-violent alternative to solve his problem?

    [Hester] dragged a metal lever out of the winch and swung it at Wreyland. [...] Hester lurched forward and raised the bar again, but before she could bring it down on the old man's skull Tom grabbed her arm. "Stop! You'll kill him!" "So?" She swung toward him, snaggleteeth bared, looking like a demented monkey. (9.22)

    This is a strong image, one that again equates violence with primal, animalistic behavior. Hester doesn't have a problem with violence, because her parents were killed right in front of her. To her, it seems to be the only way to solve a problem.

    Mungo's first shot blew the monkey off the top of Peavey's head in a cloud of singed fur. The second and third went through his chest. He bowed his head, and the mud gulped him down with soft farting noises. (20.44)

    Wow, this might just be the most undignified death ever. But it's fitting in that literary sort of way that a despicable pirate like Chrysler Peavey dies such an embarrassing, dirty death.

    "If I had not [bombed Marseilles] it would have attacked the Hundred Islands, killing or enslaving hundreds more people than I drowned with my little bomb." (24.24)

    Anna Fang seems to see violence as a numbers game. Fewer deaths are better than more deaths in her book... her book of death. Are any deaths actually justified?

    They shot [Dog] anyway, the guns giving sharp little cracks and the impact of the bullets wrenching Dog away from [Katherine] and slamming him back against the wall with a yelp. (32.15)

    In case you're one of those people who think violence against humans is okay but then gasp in terror whenever the dog is in danger, here you go: animal violence. Now you can get mad at the bad guys.

    Chudleigh Pomeroy stepped forward, holding a blunderbuss. (32.31)

    Finally, the cowardly old men stand up for something. However, it's surprising that the normally non-violent Historian bookworms are armed with deadly weapons. Could there possibly have been a non-violent solution to this problem?

  • Society and Class

    The lower levels wreathed in engine smoke, the villas of the rich gleaming white on the higher decks. (1.3)

    The difference between the upper class and lower class is striking in this view of London-on-wheels. The rich live in fabled white buildings; the poor live in literal filth.

    Tom could not get at him, because Melliphant's family had paid to make him a First Class Apprentice, while Tom, who had no family, was a mere Third. (1.23)

    Looks like even in the future people are divided by class lines, and as Tom's background tells us, people have no control over which class they're born into.

    "That's what comes of living in a slum on the lower tiers. [...] When the Big Tilt happened they both got squashed flat as a couple of raspberry pancakes: splat!" (1.37)

    Melliphant shows us classism at its worst. Not only is the lower class in greater risk merely because of where it's forced to live, but people in higher classes, like Melliphant, don't even view the losses of lower-class lives as a tragedy. It's funny to people like Melliphant.

    Tom loathed [the Gut]. It was always noisy, and it was staffed by workers from the lower tiers, who were dirty and frightening. (2.3)

    Even though Tom is the victim of class discrimination, he isn't immune to classist thinking himself. While "dirty" isn't that subjective (when you're dirty, you're dirty), seeing the lower class as "frightening" might be due to class prejudice.

    "Just because they live in the nether boroughs and don't pronounce their Hs doesn't mean they're fools." (2.31)

    After all the class prejudice we've seen, this is shockingly progressive—especially coming from Valentine, who has no real regard for human life whatsoever. What did these people do to earn his respect? Also, does this show us that Valentine is more than a cartoonish villain? Is he more complicated than he seems?

    Top Tier hangs over the city like an iron crown. [...] It is the smallest, highest, and most important of the seven Tiers, and, though only three buildings stand there, they are the three greatest buildings in London. (7.1)

    Ever heard of the 1%? The Top Tier is like that. How is it that something so small in number gets to be so important and so powerful?

    We are experimenting with ways of turning [poo] into a tasty and nutritious snack. We feed our prisoners on nothing else. Unfortunately they keep dying. But that is just a temporary setback, I'm sure. (16.22)

    Yikes. Experiments done on prisoners without their knowledge? Totally sci-fi, right? Would never happen here... oh, wait. This did happen at the Holmesberg Prison in Philadelphia (source). So much for the City of Brotherly Love.

    "We have no hospital down here. These are prisoners. [...] Criminals. They don't require medical care." (16.36)

    These prisoners aren't even second-class citizens. They're no-class citizens, treated as livestock. Hey, by the way, how did these people get into prison in the first place? If you're living at the lowest level of society without any resources, and things get desperate, maybe you'd become a criminal, too, right? Don't tell that to the Top Tier in London, we guess.

    Who cared if people were dying of heat stroke down in the Nether Boroughs? Good old London Good old Crome! (18.1)

    Can a country (or giant rolling city, in this case) be considered great and wonderful if it has no regard for its lower-class people? The way a country treats its poor is a big indicator of its value as a whole. What do you think of London here?

    All [Katherine] could think of were the thousands of Londoners who were toiling and dying in misery so that a few lucky, wealthy people like herself could live in comfort. (18.7)

    This has pretty much been Katherine's father's philosophy: other people suffer so that my family doesn't have to. Now Katherine is taking it upon herself to repent for the sins of her father. Would you think of her differently if she didn't?

  • Appearances

    Tom gazed at [Katherine] in wonder. He had seen pictures of Valentine's daughter, but he had never realized how beautiful she was. (2.22)

    Don't worry if you missed this line; you'll be reminded about how beautiful Katherine is on pretty much every page for the next three or four chapters.

    [Tom] wondered if [the assassin] was pretty: a beautiful assassin from the Anti-Traction League. (3.4)

    If the assassin were a dude, do you think Tom would give two hoots what he looked like? Why does the assassin's appearance even matter to Tom?

    She was no older than Tom, and she was hideous. (3.7)

    The first thought that runs through Tom's head isn't: "I caught the assassin!" It's: "This girl is uglier than a tarantula sandwich." Why does he place such value on physical appearance, even in a life-or-death situation?

    [Tom] missed Katherine Valentine, although he had known her for only a few minutes. Sometimes, if he closed his eyes, he could see her face quite clearly, her kind gray eyes and her lovely smile. He was sure that she didn't know what sort of man her father was... (6.1)

    Tom, sweetheart, you're not sure what sort of girl Katherine is. All you know is that she's a babe. Does that mean she's also a good person?

    What a horrible, ugly, vicious, self-pitying girl she was! (15.6)

    While we might agree with pretty much everything here, it's interesting that Tom always manages to shoehorn "ugly" into his criticism of Hester. It's not like she she's an America's Next Top Model contestant, and it's her job to look attractive for him. Give it a rest, dude.

    [Bevis Pod] pulled down his mask, and he was unexpectedly handsome. (16.43)

    It's nice that author Philip Reeve is an equal-opportunity ogler. Not only does Tom first notice the physical hotness of his would-be significant other, but Katherine, too, notices the studliness of her love interest right off the bat.

    [Tom] was in love with the image of Katherine Valentine. (19.8)

    This is a good point, although we're not sure if Tom realizes it himself yet. He's in love with the image of Katherine, and that image is flawless, like a retouched Vogue magazine cover. Can an image like that ever reflect the true person?

    "You're going to stay here with me, like the son I never had, and I'm just thinking that maybe the lads would accept you a bit more easily if you had a better-looking girl; you know, more lady-like." (19.9)

    This is Peavey's blatant attempt to set Tom up with his daughter, but he does it by playing on Tom's tendency to prefer superficial beauty. By this point, however, Tom is beginning to see Hester's other strengths.

    This place was old, and beautiful. [Tom] wouldn't let it be smashed! (28.5)

    Tom extends his shallow view that beauty equals value to the town of Shan Gau. We guess this means that if the town were gross-looking, Tom would let it get destroyed. We hope Tom's never in charge of saving Baltimore.

    Above the clouds, the rockets flare and bang, and the light of an exploding airship washes across the upturned faces of the crowd, who murmur, "Oooooooooh!" (34.11)

    As we all know, appearances can be deceiving. Here, the crowds of London mistake a violent explosion for fireworks. Of course, seeing how bloodthirsty they can be, they might have cheered even if they did know exactly what was going on. By the way, appearances can be deceiving? Now there's a lesson the characters in this book might want to consider.

  • Guilt and Blame

    [Tom] didn't feel like a hero anymore--he just felt sorry for this poor, hideous girl, and guilty at being the one who had trapped her here. (3.11)

    Tom's much more likely to feel guilty than he is to feel like a hero. This is a persistent characteristic, and we'll see a lot of evidence of it as we go through here. Think about why Tom beats himself up so much. Does this possibly make him, in a way, more heroic?

    "I don't like this slaving lark any more than you do, but times are hard." (9.21)

    People seem to pass the "times are hard" buck a lot in this novel. Is "times are hard" a valid excuse for doing things that are worse than amoral? Does this excuse absolve anyone of blame?

    "He was going to make me everything I ever wanted: no memories, no feelings. [...] Oh, why do you keep interfering?" (22.34)

    "Yeah, Tom, it's all your fault Hester isn't dead. How could you?" Sorry, we're just kicking the kid while he's down, but Hester blaming him for stupid stuff doesn't help his guilt complex at all.

    I killed Grike, [Tom] thought. All right, so he was dead already, technically, but he was still a person. He had hopes and plans and dreams, and I put a stop to them all. (24.12)

    Grike is the first person (or near-person) Tom kills, and he feels bad about it. Considering that Grike would have killed him given half a chance, is Tom being unfair with himself?

    "I supposed I should thank you for saving my life, too." (26.12)

    Looky here. Little Miss Angry Pants, a.k.a. Hester, feels a little guilty for blaming Tom for saving her. While it's not quite an apology, it'll have to do.

    If Hester killed [Valentine], Tom would have betrayed his whole city... (28.4)

    Tom even holds himself responsible for other people's actions. Are Hester's actions in any way under Tom's control, and should he blame himself for any of this? Tom seems pretty conscientious. What does this tell us about his actions in the novel? Is he more like Hester or like Katherine?

    Valentine was the cause of all this! It was Valentine who had ruined [Tom's] life, and Hester's, and put an end to so much more. (29.5)

    We're finally glad Tom is blaming someone other than himself for the world's problems. And you know, he might actually be right this time: Valentine has screwed up more than he can possibly imagine.

    Valentine hung his head, angry, despairing, ashamed. (30.16)

    Wow, we're pretty shocked to discover that even Valentine feels shame at what he's done. But why does he? Is it merely because his daughter now looks down on him, or does he truly feel guilty for all the pain he's caused?

    It was [Tom's] fault! People must be dead down there. [...] He wished he had never fired those rockets. (35.2)

    Once again, Tom finds himself in a kill-or-be-killed situation, and he feels bad for saving himself. To complicate matters here, however, innocent people died, too. Maybe Tom does bear a bit of the blame for this one. Did he have a choice?

    "It was Valentine's fault, and Crome's. It was the Engineers' fault for getting the thing to work and my mum's fault for digging it up in the first place. It was the Ancients' fault for inventing it. It was Pewsey and Gench's fault for trying to kill you, and Katherine's for saving my life..." (37.4)

    Here, Hester finally gets to the root of the blame game... and these roots are long and twisted. Who's to blame? There's no end to the question, and no beginning. But does that absolve people of all responsibility? We're skeptical.

  • Courage

    If he grew bored, [Tom] simply took refuge in a daydream in which he was a hero who rescued beautiful girls from air-pirates. (1.16)

    Even though he spends his days with a feather duster in his hands, Tom dreams it's a sword. This foreshadows upcoming courageous events, but it also ends up being disappointing, because being a courageous pirate isn't everything Tom dreamed it would be.

    [Tom] could feel his heart pounding with excitement. After all those dull years spent dreaming of adventures, suddenly he was having one! He had saved Mr. Valentine's life! He was a hero! (3.3)

    Tom is using lots of exclamation points. That's how you know things are really heating up: exclamation points! Adrenaline? Courage? What is going on with Tom here?

    "I ran out of the house and saw Valentine's great black ship moored at the end of the garden with his men waiting. They came after me, but I escaped." (6.19)

    Hester's story shows us just how much courage she possesses. Even after witnessing her parents' murder, she manages to hold herself together and escape.

    Tom was laughing helplessly at the closeness of their escape and at the sheer surprise of finding himself still alive, and Hester laughed with him. (15.62)

    Tom and Hester may have just performed a courageous feat by jumping onto a moving city, but it's important to remember that they're not action heroes. They're still kids, and the relief at surviving makes them giddy with laughter.

    "NO! [...] You know her, and she asked you for help, and you ought to help her! You're just a coward, eating up little towns that can't escape, and murdering people, and holding people in the slave-pit because you're too scared of your own men to help them!" (17.31)

    A repeating idea in this book is that the kids—Tom, Hester, Katherine, and Bevis—are courageous. The adults aren't. And the adults are the ones who are running the world. Are they living in what amounts to a cowardly world?

    [Tom] didn't feel like a hero, he felt like a murderer. (24.12)

    Courage isn't looking so hot anymore, eh, Tommy boy? Sometimes being brave and doing what feels right aren't the same thing.

    The Lord Mayor will go nowhere without his new bodyguard. (25.2)

    The Lord Mayor and courage don't exactly go hand in hand. It's easy to be a stone-cold jerk when you have an all-powerful army of cyborgs following you around.

    It felt like a different Thomas that they were talking about, someone brave and strong who understood what had to be done, and felt no doubts. (26.53)

    Tom refers to himself as "Thomas" when talking about the brave side of his personality that he doesn't identify with. Does this tell us anything about names in the novel? Does Tom consider himself incomplete without this brave side, in the same way that "Tom" is an incomplete form of "Thomas"?

    It was the sort of adventure that Valentine had written about. (28.3)

    Well, here we learn that Valentine isn't all lies. Sure, he's a despicable dirt-bag, but he at least performs feats of treachery, instead of just saying he does.

    [Valentine] wishes he had the courage to stand up to Crome the way [Katherine] wants him to, but it is too late for that, too late, too late. (31.35)

    Who knew that Valentine wishes for courage, just like the Cowardly Lion? All his murderous, evil actions result from a lack of courage, from fear. It's kind of sad. Well, it would be sad if he weren't such a jerk. If violence stems from a lack of courage, then maybe Tom has it all wrong: heroic deeds arise out of fear, but true courage means facing up to yourself questioning your own actions.

  • Admiration

    The proudest moment of [Tom's] life had been when he was twelve and Valentine had come down to present the apprentices' end-of-year prizes, including the one Tom had won for an essay on identifying fake antiquities. (2.7)

    It's important to realize that Tom isn't proud that he won a prize due to his own hard work; he's proud that he got to see Valentine give a speech. Wethinks Tom might have a little man-crush on Valentine.

    Tom felt a big, gentle hand on his shoulder and then--he was never sure quite how it happened--a twist, a shove, and he was pitching over the handrail and falling. (3.24)

    Here's how it happened, Tom: your hero just pushed you to your death. But you're so blinded by your idolization of Valentine that you don't even see the betrayal right away. How's that for appearances being deceiving?

    Valentine pushed me! [...] No, he can't have. It must have been a mistake. I slipped, and he tried to grab me, that's what must have happened. (4.7)

    Now Tom is rewriting history to keep from believing that his hero would push him in a long hole to nowhere. He's so in denial, he's blaming himself.

    "Mr. Valentine would never do something like that! Katherine said he couldn't even bring himself to shoot a wolf cub! You're lying!" (4.19)

    Katherine has loving-daughter eyes for her father. She sees him as a person who can do no wrong. While Valentine might not be able to shoot a wolf cub (please—we're sure he can), he's able to cut throats and blow up cities. Katherine just doesn't know it yet.

    "Dad was a farmer, and Mum was a Historian like you—only a lot clever than you, of course." (6.15)

    This little comment from Hester shows her admiration at the same time that throws an insult at Tom. But the admiration part is key. Hester also admires what her mother did, as a Historian, so maybe that's a quality in Tom she can grow to admire.

    [Tom] blushed, ashamed for Valentine, and ashamed of himself for having loved him. (11.7)

    Should Tom be ashamed for loving Valentine? Maybe. Valentine's done some pretty despicable things, but's he's also done some wonderful things. Why do the bad things tend to define a person more than good? Think of all the celebrity and political scandals you've seen. Then again, when the things you are this bad, it's hard to overlook them just because you're nice to your own kid.

    "Hester hates me!" "Nonsense," giggled Miss Fang. "She likes you very much." [...] Tom blushed, feeling suddenly proud. (24.33-24.35)

    Tom blushes less out of love than out of admiration. Hester's clearly too ugly for Tom to love. (Hey, he said she it, not us.) But he does admire her courage and her independence.

    Tom felt a strange mix of pride and fear at the thought of [Valentine] on the loose here in the very heart of Shan Guo. (26.39)

    Tom's views on Valentine are conflicting. He feels pride because this guy is his hero. Valentine's practically God. But he feels fear because Valentine might kill everyone. This mix isn't just strange; it's volatile. No wonder Tom is so conflicted.

    What courage it must have taken, [for Valentine] to sneak into the great stronghold of the League, under the very noses of London's enemies! (28.3)

    It's incredible that even this late in the book, even after he knows all the evil Valentine has wrought, Tom still finds Valentine's daring feats "courageous." We're not sure if Tom will ever get over his admiration for this man, and okay, even we have to admit that there are aspects of him worth admiring.

    [Katherine] knew [Valentine, her dad] would rather be outside helping with the rescue work and only the Lord Mayor's orders kept him here. She forgot for a moment that he was a murderer. (35.11)

    Katherine's such a sweet, loving daughter. At this point, she knows exactly how despicable his father is, but she still admires him. The interesting thing is that we never get inside Valentine's head. You're probably not clouded by admiration for the man; do you think he'd rather be outside helping with the rescue work?

  • Technology and Modernization

    The Ancients destroyed themselves in that terrible flurry of orbit-to-earth atomics and tailored-virus bombs called the Sixty Minute War. (1.18)

    A lot of our technology goes into weapons of mass destruction. And as we learned from the Cold War, one day these weapons might get out of our control and destroy us all.

    "Mr. Valentine! Look! A seedy!" (2.33)

    Tom finds a relic from the past, which you might know as a CD. It's amazing how things that were once technologically cutting edge become junk in just a few short years. Heck, CDs are practically junk already, and we're barely into the 21st century.

    "The people of the old days may only have lived in static settlements, but their electronic machines were far beyond anything London's Engineers have been able to build." (2.36)

    Why do you think the Engineers are able to build half-mile-high rolling cities but haven't been able to construct a Sony Discman?

    London had never been meant to go so far, so fast. (16.1)

    This line is technically talking about Crome speeding London toward the Shield-Wall. However, it could also be applied toward the speed of technological advancement that has pushed London, and the world, to the point of desperation.

    Properly processed human ordure makes very useful fuel for our city's engines. And we are experimenting with ways of turning it into a tasty and nutritious snack. (16.22)

    Mmm, Poop Bars. This is only the next logical step in energy bar technology. A Clif bar sort of looks like a pile of poop anyway, so who's going to know the difference?

    "Perfect workers. [...] They don't need feeding or clothing or housing, and when there's no work to be done you can switch 'em off and stack 'em in a warehouse, so they're much easier to store." (18.47)

    How horrible that they're building things like this, right? Oh wait, have you ever heard of the Industrial Revolution? Or computers? People have been building machines in these conditions for years. And think about it this way—since these machines have a human consciousness inside, at least someone isn't out of a job!

    "The Ancients' terrible thunder-weapons had blasted their static cities and poisoned the earth and sky." (21.30)

    In case we didn't get it already: military technology kills and poisons the earth. Why isn't more effort put into technology that saves people and heals the earth?

    His department is always keen to find new and inventive ways to kill people. (25.7)

    This is a blunt way to put this, and it makes Dr. Vambrace seem really evil (he kind of is). But Dr. Vambrace's technology isn't all that different from the bombs and missiles we already have; it's just that we don't always think of these things as "new and inventive ways to kill people."

    "Quantum energy beams that drew their power from places outside the real universe..." (25.9)

    This is a strange touch of sci-fi so late in the story. Do you think future books will explore this bit of quantum technology? Do you think anything like this is possible in the real world?

    Katherine began to suspect that they didn't really understand this technology that her father had dug up for them; they were almost as awed by it as she. (35.17)

    This messing with things people don't understands never ends well. If these people had movies, they would have watched Raiders of the Lost Ark and learned their lesson. (Spoiler alert!) Having someone's face liquefied would almost be preferable to what happens in this book.

  • Friendship

    [Melliphant] enjoyed picking on Tom, who was small and shy and had no friends to stick up for him. (1.23)

    Poor no-friends Tom. This can account for a lot of things, like his hero complex. Perhaps by saving the day, he can impress someone into being his friend...

    [Hester] tried to smile. It was the first time [Tom] had seen her smile: an ugly, crooked thing, but very welcome; it made him feel that she was starting to like him and didn't just regard him as an annoyance. (8.34)

    Okay, this is a complicated sentence—just like Hester, who is a complicated person. Tom? He's kind of like a puppy (a puppy who criticizes others' appearances). He wants to find a friend and be loved. Hester? Friendship is hard for her. She has to "try" to smile just like she has to "try" to find friends. Why is this so difficult for her to do?

    "Even if Valentine has sent someone after you, you are among friends." (12.14)

    This might be the first time Tom has found a friend. Heck, it might even be the first time the word has been used in the book. Still, Tom rejects Anna Fang's friendship because he believes her to be a political traitor. Should ideological differences come between friends?

    "I'm sorry I never got a chance to say good-bye..." (12.33)

    Sounds like Hester and Grike might have been friends... at least as much as a girl bent on revenge and a soulless cyborg can be friends. They're no Harry and Ron, but they're close.

    "He wouldn't kill me, he wouldn't!" (12.42)

    The italics here specify: yes, Grike would kill. No, he wouldn't kill Hester. At least she doesn't think so, because she thinks they have some sort of friendship. He raised her—but that doesn't mean they were friends.

    "I'm already a monster!" [Hester] shrieked. "No, you're not!" Tom managed to heave himself to his knees. "You're my friend!" he shouted. (22.36-22.37)

    Of course, Tom also desperately wants to be friends with Valentine. He's kind of a monster, too. Maybe being a monster and Tom's friend aren't mutually exclusive. Maybe it's even easier, or more meaningful, to be friends with someone who isn't perfect. (We haven't tried being friends with, you know, actual monsters. So we can't offer our perspective on that.)

    [Tom] had grown used to that face and he would miss [Hester's] lopsided smiles. (26.15)

    Tom and Hester might be friends now, but will he ever let her forget that her face has been slashed? Let it go, man. Just. Let. It. Go.

    I shouldn't have stopped you [from killing Valentine] before, but I'm glad I did, because the Gut Police would have killed you and then we'd never have met. (29.10)

    "And I never would have learned that sometimes killing other people is for the best. At least we have that in common, Hester," says Tom in our little fanfiction universe.

    [Hester] wanted [Tom] to know that he was the best thing that had happened to her. (33.56)

    Hester starts to feel like she's friends with Tom way after he feels like he's friends with her. They really do complement each other. Hester shows Tom what it means to be independent, and Tom shows Hester that being alive isn't all bad.

    [Katherine] smiled, pleased that she had met her half sister at last, and wondering if they were going to be friends. (35.37)

    It's sweet that this is one of the last thoughts on Katherine's mind before she dies: she wants to be friends with Hester. We're not sure if they would be friends or not. They both kind of want their own father dead, though, so they have at least one thing in common.

  • Religion

    [Tom] cut through the Twenty-First Century gallery, past the big plastic statues of Pluto and Mickey, animal-headed gods of lost America. (1.18)

    The people of this future society think we revered Disney characters as gods... and we kind of do. What other pop-culture characters might be misconstrued as deities one day? Saint Shrek? Nemo, Patron Saint of Lost Children? Tina Fey, Our Lady of Perpetual Funniness? We could go on and on.

    [Tom] would have to remember [Hester Shaw], and say a prayer for her to one of London's many gods. (3.17)

    Why would Tom pray for Hester? Because she apparently committed suicide? Because she's so full of anger? Or just because he wishes she weren't so ugly?

    [Katherine] paus[ed] to pay her respects before the statue of Clio, goddess of History. (5.5)

    You might know Clio as the Greek Muse of History. That's appropriate, huh?

    Now [Tom] was dead, his soul fled down to the Sunless Country. (5.10)

    This shows the culture's beliefs about what happens after a person dies. The Sunless Country sounds pretty bleak. Why do you think they don't believe in a happy, sunny afterlife? Does the fact that they believe in an afterlife at all show that they are hopeful? Or is this particular afterlife too bleak for that?

    Between them stands St. Paul's, the ancient Christian temple. [...] It is a sad said now, covered in scaffolding and shored up with props, for it was never meant to move. (7.1)

    St. Paul's Cathedral seems to represent Christianity. Does Christianity have trouble moving, or in this case, adapting with changing times?

    They ran [...] past a shrine to Peripatetia, goddess of wandering towns. (9.3)

    If something is "peripatetic," it's something that moves around a lot and travels. Another good name for a god, no? What do names mean in this novel?

    The God of Aviators was a friendly-looking fellow [...] but his wife, the Lady of the High Heavens, was cruel and tricky. (12.2)

    Looks like women in religion get the short end of the stick even in the future. This "cruel and tricky" Lady of the High Heavens would probably have some stories to tell with Eve, Mary Magdalene, and others—when they're done conspiring against men, of course.

    Ever since Nikolas Quirke had been declared a god, most Londoners had stopped giving much thought to the older gods and goddesses. (14.23)

    How does a living man find himself declared a god? All Nikolas Quirke did was invent something that changed life forever...

    *We glance at our shrine to Steve Jobs in the corner*

    …Oh, okay. We get it now.

    [Katherine] hadn't really expected an answer [from Clio], and none came, so she said a quick prayer for Father and another for poor Tom Natsworthy, and made her offerings and left. (14.23)

    Even though Katherine doesn't expect her goddess to answer her, ever, she still prays and makes offerings. Why does she do this?

    "They haven't really been repairing the cathedral at all! They've built MEDUSA inside St. Paul's!" (23.2)

    So, what was once a holy place of worship is now basically a high-tech missile base. Coincidence? Or is Reeve making a statement that religion can be used as a weapon?