Mortal Engines, Philip Reeve

Another book now turned into a movie is set to be released soon. This dystopian novel published in 2004 has been on my To Read List for years, but the new film made it jump to the top. After an apocalyptic world war, the environment is dramatically changed and bare of nearly any resources, so to survive the population put their cities on wheels and consume other towns for their supplies. The story follows Tom, a young apprentice Historian, Hester, a girl desperate for revenge and Katherine, a high-born London lady, as they make their way through this world.

Tom is so excited when he meets his hero, Head Historian Valentine and his beautiful daughter Katherine. And when he has the chance to be a hero and catch Valentine’s would-be assassin, he races after her only to come face to face with Hester Shaw, a horribly disfigured girl with horrific claims against Valentine. Before Tom can ask her any questions, she jumps from the city, seeming to commit suicide. Shocked, Tom explains what happened when Valentine arrives only to have his idol throw him from London.

Miraculously, both Tom and Hester survive. Now stuck in the barbaric Out-Lands Tom follows Hester as they trudge after London. As they walk Hester explains how she saw Valentine murder her parents before he cuts up her face in an attempt to kill her. Tom can’t believe that his hero would do something so terrible, Hester must have it wrong. But he can’t get over what Valentine did to him. Their relationship starts off strained and untrusting, but as they travel and overcome various challenges, they come to consider each other as friends. For Hester this is particularly hard due to her past and her deformity which makes people think of her as a monster, so that’s how she acts. It’s really great to see the real Hester come out, as she lets down her walls and opens up.

Katherine seems like just the love interest at first, but she turns out to be an interesting character. Determined to find out the truth of what is upsetting her father, Katherine uncovers the truth of Hester Shaw. Not only that but she figures out what the Engineers are doing and what the Mayor plans to do to the world. Though horrified, Katherine is determined to stop it, even if she has to do it by herself. Luckily for her, she makes some friends along the way who turn out to be quite intriguing characters; Pod, a young engineer, and the Historians, who run the Museum.

Old-Tech from the period of the great war that decimated the world is highly valued, not only for their historical value but for their potential as weapons. The Engineers Guild would sacrifice an entire city to get their hands on a single piece. The Stalkers are by far the worse. Human brains transplanted into metal bodies create terrifying killing machines. One such monster pursues Hester and Tom, and they have to work together to outwit him.

Anna Fang was an awesome character, the real adventurer type. She’s fearless, cunning and kind with a sad backstory that motivated her to help the two children in need. Anna is also great at showing the other side of The Anti-Tractionist League, a group who hates cities on wheels and how they eat other towns. I think the Anti-Tractionists had a good point, the way towns consume villages, taking their resources and either taking in their people or making them slaves was truly barbaric. The Gut, where the engine and other machines are maintained, is where people are basically enslaved into gruelling manual labour until they drop dead. It was really disgusting to read about how people could do this to others. It was made worse by the scene where convicts were made to wade through a mixture of faeces and other waste products and an engineer says they’re developing recycled food made from the waste. Later you see unknowing people eating it, truly disgusting!

Mortal Engines was a good read with a rich dystopian world filled with interesting characters. The ending had me choking up, a good demonstration of how the author made you feel for the characters. I give it 5/5 and look forward to the movie.


2 thoughts on “Mortal Engines, Philip Reeve

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