Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve

After finishing Fever Crumb last week I was inspired to re-read Reeve’s Hungry City Chronicles. I tore into Mortal Engines. This series begins hundreds (thousands?) of years after Fever Crumb’s time. I was specifically looking for people who showed up in her story, mostly though I wanted to see if any of the characters were related to Fever Crumb herself. I didn’t get a sense of that at all, but who knows what I’ll pick up when I re-read the rest of the books in this series.

Municipal Darwinism is a way of life – it is a city eat city world. Cities have lifted themselves off the ground and become roaming aggressors. Those that actually live on the ground (Ack! the horror!) are referred to as Mossies (from the *ahem* old saying, “a rolling town gathers no moss”). Anyhow, Tractionists and Mossies – also known as Anti-tractionists don’t get along.

Insert a fan girl squee for that, because this is what it really boils down to for me: the ingenuity of what elements of modern life Reeve chooses to insert and adapt into this distant dystopian future. It is brilliant and I loves it. Reeve is obviously something of a music buff. Fever Crumb having numerous Bowie references and the music references don’t disappoint in Mortal Engines either. Airships have names like 13th floor elevator, My shirona, and Idiot Wind.

We start the story off by meeting Tom Natsworthy, a third class apprentice Historian who has been assigned pit duty after London eats another city. There he meets up with Valentine – the Historian Guild leader and his daughter Katherine. He’s in heaven – a beautiful girl and his hero hanging out and shooting the breeze. It is fantastic. At least until Hester Shaw shows up. She is a horribly disfigured girl who attempts to assassinate Valentine. A chase ensues, Hester jumps down a garbage chute to escape and much to his surprise(and total dismay) Valentine pushes Tom down after her. You pretty much hold your breath from there on out, the action and suspense never slow down.

One of the things that I most enjoy about this series is that it unapologetically kills off important characters. Another is that it is kind of gross.

“What are they doing?” asked Katherine. “What is that stuff?”
Miss Valentine,” said Nimmo, sounding proud. “Effuent. Ejecta. Human nutritional
“You mean…poo?” said Katherine, appalled.
“Thank you, Miss Valentine; perhaps that is the word for which I was groping.” Nimmo glared at her. “There is nothing disgusting about it, I assure you. We all…ah…use the toilet from time to time. Well, now you know where your…um…poo ends up. 'Waste not, want not’ is the Engineers’ motto, Miss. Properly processed human erdure makes very useful fuel for our city’s engines. And we are experimenting with ways of turning it into a tasty and nutritious snake. We feed our prisoners on nothing else. Unfortunately they keep dying. But that is just a temporary setback, “I’m sure.”

I think we’re all allowed a barf break after reading that quote. I mean, they're feeding people poo y'all!!!

The final thing I love about this book is that its heroes are so unlikely. Tom takes a long time to come around from being a staunch supporter of Tractionism. He’s young and naïve and doesn’t want to believe that he might have spent his life being lied to. But, if I am to be completely honest, I think Hester is the star of the show. She’s a realist of the most unfortunate kind (you know, the kind that learn what’s up because they’ve had the raw end of the stick once too often and then had their face disfigured with it). Hester is vicious and insecure and unapologetic about it. She’s in a word, awesome.

Can’t wait to re-read the next one!

Book Source: Library Copy


Kelly said...

This is on my TBR list, thanks for the great review to nudge me to read it soon!

Patti said...

I should proof-read better. The quote from the book has like 10 errors in it.

Charlotte said...

I really need to read this series...thanks for the additional push!

(and boy do I hear you on the proof-reading thing. Blogging makes me wince a lot).

Patti said...

I just got the next book in the series. I'm going to start on it tonight! Woot!