Study Guide

Mortal Engines Religion

By Philip Reeve


[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?