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"It was a dark, blustery afternoon in spring, and the city of London was chasing a small mining town across the dried-out bed of the old North Sea."

The great traction city London has been skulking in the hills to avoid the bigger, faster, hungrier cities loose in the Great Hunting Ground. But now, the sinister plans of Lord Mayor Mangus Crome can finally unfold.

Thaddeus Valentine, London's Head Historian and adored famous archaeologist, and his lovely daughter, Katherine, are down in The Gut when the young assassin with the black scarf strikes toward his heart, saved by the quick intervention of Tom, a lowly third-class apprentice. Racing after the fleeing girl, Tom suddenly glimpses her hideous face: scarred from forehead to jaw, nose a smashed stump, a single eye glaring back at him. "Look at what your Valentine did to me!" she screams. "Ask him! Ask him what he did to Hester Shaw!" And with that she jumps down the waste chute to her death. Minutes later Tom finds himself tumbling down the same chute and stranded in the Out-Country, a sea of mud scored by the huge caterpillar tracks of cities like the one now steaming off over the horizon.

In a stunning literary debut, Philip Reeve has created a painful dangerous unforgettable adventure story of surprises, set in a dark and utterly original world fueled by Municipal Darwinism -- and betrayal.

326 pages, Paperback

First published November 16, 2001

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About the author

Philip Reeve

192 books2,439 followers
Philip Reeve was born and raised in Brighton, where he worked in a bookshop for a number of years while also co-writing, producing and directing a number of no-budget theatre projects.

Philip then began illustrating and has since provided cartoons for around forty children's books, including the best-selling Horrible Histories, Murderous Maths and Dead Famous series.

Railhead, published by Oxford University Press, will be published in the UK in October 2015

Pugs of the Frozen North, written with Sarah McIntyre, is out now.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 6,137 reviews
Profile Image for Evelina | AvalinahsBooks.
861 reviews440 followers
November 10, 2016
So do they hand out those literary prizes for anything now? Second bad review in the same week, but I have to be honest. I read this book because my boyfriend read it when he was a kid/teen and he said he remembered it as awesome. Well, I guess we look at things differently when we're kids.

And yet - I know a lot of kids books that have brilliant writing, good story-building and don't need to be dumbed down.

Let me just put it in the form of a nice list. The good:
- good morals underneath
- nice idea about the way the world works, the hungry cities
- the ending did absolve it a little bit
- for a YA book, it wasn't overburdened with love triangles or worse (as is usually the case)
That would be about it.

The bad?
- it never gets anywhere until you reach 50%
- stuff just happens in a jumble, never leading up to anything for half the book either
- stuff is just too damn predictable
- the writing is kind of bad
- more than half the important characters are killed off at 95%. Seriously? Were you going for some drama here?
- it feels unfinished. Or was I reading a first draft? Sure felt like it.

There was one more point, and to be honest, I am having trouble figuring out if it should go with the good or the bad things. This would work as a movie. It's written like a movie. But not one of those cinematic books. More like a book that really wanted to be a movie, but couldn't. So it's only half a book.

To sum it up, no - it's not a bad book. Maybe not if you're 12. But I still feel that kids' books CAN and should be better than that. You can make it a kids book without writing it poorly.
Sometimes I wonder if maybe I should write a book someday too. But then I read something like this and get scared that I'll just write one like that too. Then I think, maybe it's best not to try.
Profile Image for Matthew.
1,219 reviews8,838 followers
January 28, 2019
I don’t think I have ever read any steampunk before. However, I do think the Dark Materials series may fall into that genre and I did read that (even though I didn’t care for it), so maybe I have. I decided to try Mortal Engines because I saw the preview for the recently released movie and I thought it looked interesting. I am not sure how the movie fared, but the book was quite an adventure!

Set in a steampunk future world, the majority of the cities on Earth have become giant moving behemoths that wander the land swallowing up smaller towns and scavenging wreckage. The focus is on the roaming town of London and its attempt to seek dominance in a world of rival cities, pirate suburbs, airships, and anti-tractionists - who believe the towns should stay in one place.

I thought the story was great and very creative. There was lots of action and character development and the author did not pull any punches when it came to the mortality of the people and the cities. I found myself deeply invested throughout and enjoyed every minute of it. I am glad to see that this is just the first of a series as I am excited to explore this world some more.

I don’t think fans of Sci-fi/dystopian/steampunk can go wrong here. It is geared toward YA and, unlike some others that seem to be mislabeled as YA, this one definitely has a YA feel. So, if you are not a YA fan, I am not sure if the steampunk/sci-fi will be enough to interest you, but I think it is very worth a try.

Profile Image for Hannah Greendale.
703 reviews3,281 followers
August 2, 2017
Mortal Engines is an enchanting blend of steampunk, dystopia, and whimsy. The adventure is grand, the world is alive, and the characters are memorable.

In the distant future, the earth is little more than barren landscape cluttered with the rusted remnants of crumbling infrastructure. People have raised the cities from the ground, retrofitting them with rolling tracks and steaming engines to prowl the wastes in search of smaller cities to devour for scrap.

The mining town saw the danger and turned tail, but already the huge caterpillar tracks under London were starting to roll faster and faster. Soon the city was lumbering in hot pursuit, a moving mountain of metal that rose in seven tiers like the layers of a wedding cake, the lower levels wreathed in engine smoke, the villas of the rich gleaming white on the higher decks, and above it all the cross on top of St. Paul's Cathedral glinting gold, two thousand feet above the ruined earth.

Enter fifteen-year-old Tom, Third Class Apprentice to the Guild of Historians, who daydreams of rescuing pretty girls from air pirates. Tom could really use a little adventure in his life. Cue the mysterious girl with a terrible scar running down her face whose chance encounter with Tom leads to far more adventure than he bargained for.
Profile Image for Geek Furioso.
99 reviews3,168 followers
July 21, 2019
Ayúdame, Peter Jackson. Eres mi última esperanza.

Este libro ha hecho tambalear los cimientos de mi firme creencia de que "el worldbuilding es sumamente importante en un libro". Porque da igual que el worldbuilding sea genial, si tu historia, tus personajes, tu narrativa y tu traducción son una castaña, tu libro va a ser cuatro veces una castaña. Máquinas Mortales es un escenario increíblemente bonito para una obra de teatro de mierda interpretada por los peores autores del mundo.

Dios, rezo porque la película sea mejor. Porque no creo que pueda soportar algo tan absolutamente malo como ha sido este libro.
Profile Image for Jonathan Terrington.
593 reviews559 followers
June 4, 2018
Third Review

You can read this review over at my website as well The Write Stuff and you will also be able to read my review of the film once I watch it in December 2018!

The Hungry City Chronicles is one of my favourite book series from childhood. I was around twelve to fourteen years old when I first read the series. The ideal age to read these novels and to be entertained by them. I had no preconceptions about literature structure. No knowledge about in media res or three-act story telling.

However, I had some concepts about the quality of a story based on the other material I was reading and had read. Take The Lord of the Rings - my favourite novel of all still today for a variety of reasons. Or maybe consider that I was also consuming Pride and Prejudice, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Little Women and many other classics. And for me, Mortal Engines as an entire series was up on a pedestal.

Revisiting the series I can see some obvious flaws in the writing. There is a large amount of obvious foreshadowing, and many of the characters are thinly sketched. In many regards they feel like simple avatars for the expression of the world around them. Yet again, the idea of this novel is certainly bigger than the novel's telling. In a charming way the novel's faults appear whimsical in adulthood, with the world existing as a patchwork of unique science fiction ideas.

It is a novel in a future world, in which cities drive along on treads and devour smaller cities. In the process of this 'Municipal Darwinism' cities absorb various resources and items from these other cities. This future world has been devastated by a previous apocalypse, splitting the land into the roaming cities and a few 'Anti-Tractionists.' The Anti-Tractionists believe cities should live on the ground and not move around. It is a world in which the concepts of extremist capitalism are shown on an artistic canvas, warning the reader of the dangers of cities existing in isolationism. The reader is shown that a world in which cities devour one another to maintain some kind of importance on the Earth is no world worth living in.

In many ways, the 'cool elements' of this novel that attracted the adolescent version of myself are mere distractions. The scarred heroine, the bookish protagonist, the cyborg zombies, and the moving and eating cities. The real essence of this novel is found in the heart of what it has to share about humanity: our present and our future. And that is what truly touched me and continues to influence me now as an adult re-reader.

Second Review

Time has certainly tempered my approach to this series - particularly to this book - however I remain convinced that this work of fiction remains at a higher calibre of fiction than many others in the same subgenre of YA fiction. My re-read would therefore re-categorise it to closer to 4 or 4.5 stars in the light of the fact that I did not find it as engaging as reading it for the first time, and I hold to the notion that a book must be as fine the second time as it is the first.

The novel is an apocalyptic YA fiction work, set far into the future where, as described in my original review: cities roam around as mobile vehicles which chase and 'eat' other cities for resources. The 'historians' on these cities hunt through the wreckage of prey for mysterious Old Tech such as 'seedys' (CDs). However, given that this is set far into the future such other 'Old Tech' exists such as robotically animated zombies called 'stalkers' which are reainimated corpses made for war and energy weapons - most of which has been lost to any semblance of society that remains.

The setting is one of the most fascinating parts of this series - and as the series continues this setting develops and you see more fascinating science fiction concepts and greater development of the characters as well. Which is probably what I noticed about this first novel: while charming, the characters were slightly sketchy in terms of their descriptions and emotional construction. That said, as I also recall: the series becomes more emotional and romantic as it continues.

All in all, a highly recommended series, possibly best aimed at 13-16 year olds, who are looking for something in a science fiction vein. It's certainly much better written than The Hunger Games and has as interesting or more interesting a world and characters!

Original Review

Mortal Engines as a series is a master-class in inventive YA science fiction. There are very few series where I can state that the last novel is my favourite in full honesty. Often I will read a series and the last novel will bring it all to a painful or awkward close. Which is what I am hoping will not happen with The Wheel of Time and the last Obernewtyn book. I do know for a fact that this is not what happened here.

The world of Mortal Engines is dominated by Municipal Darwinism. This is the idea used to promote and state that the city-eat-city mentality is acceptable. So, you're saying, city-eat-city, is that a metaphor? Well not in this work of speculative fiction.

In Philip Reeve's post-apocalyptic world cities literally eat one another. They move on tractor treads and few people ever touch the ground. Tom, the main protagonist certainly had never touched ground until Hester Shaw knocked him off London. Well she was trying to escape her failed attempt to kill one of London's dignitaries and a kind of zombie robot. And so begins one intriguing and interesting journey for Tom and Hester as they try and stop a plot brewing on London itself.

If you enter this series you will find technological discoveries, swords, guns, explosions, fireworks, loads of zombie robot machines and intriguing and zany characters of all racial types and genders. It's a brilliant series and one I would love to have on my bookshelf to own.
Profile Image for Tina ➹ Woman, Life, Freedom.
396 reviews399 followers
September 25, 2020
2 Stars

(P: Poor)

again, another little book lasted too long.

Good interesting, funny beginning
I liked Tom
Unique post–apocalyptic world
But too many stuff I wasn’t interested in, in the middle, especially most of those POV characters that weren’t Tom.
I like a few of the characters, though they were stupid or annoying sometimes. but there were many unimportant unnecessary characters just were in the scene just to push one button.

the writing style was sometimes fun (especially in the beginning) when it was Tom’s, but sometimes the voice of the characters sounded childish (Catherine & Podd), & in the end the constant changing between past tenses & present tenses & the POV characters were confusing.
the plot was slow & mostly boring.

I liked the movie better, even though the age of the main characters weren’t right & it surly was different at some points (for the better) I mean I prefer to “see” all these engines & cities, not reading info-dump about how they work & the gears turning. So the world was interesting, but it was exhausting reading about them.
I hope they make later movies adaptations.

I'd want to like this book, but I guess I don't like Steampunk .

I'll abandon the series.
Profile Image for Ivan.
417 reviews278 followers
February 7, 2017
It's town eat town world

I separate YA dystopian books in two categories based on two popular series. Hunger games it's children and books similar to Chaos walking. Mortal engines is latter.While it's bit older they are definitively branches of the same tree which has roots in old fantasy.

Mortal Engines is steampunk dystopia where after huge war ground become unstable and resources become scarce so entire settlements became mobile. Thousand years later and towns still roam and devour each other for slaves and resources. Our protagonist is just poor boy, nobody loves him, who lives in one such city but his lives but after he stops one of towns officials being assassinated by mutilated girl things go badly for him as bunch of city's dirty secrets come to light and soon he finds himself out of town he knew all his life and on dangerous adventure with above mentioned girl in old fantasy style full of interesting places, people and well written banter.

Overall 4.4 stars. I'm not mindblown but this was extremely fun and well written adventure in interesting setting. Warm recommendation.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,976 followers
December 17, 2018
I was thinking to myself as I read this... wow, this seems like a great YA novel that has major overtones of steampunk and dystopia. I would have LOVED this back in the early 2000's.

I really should have read it back then. Seriously.

Because now, after a glut of dystopia, strange steampunk (even if it is a far future dystopia), and charming YA characters also glutting the market, Mortal Engines now feels a bit... dated.

The cities chomping down on each other and the later spoilerish coolness is still cool, mind you. And the characters are cute in the "I've seen this a million times by now and sigh" kind of cute way.

But now? Does it really stand as a work of grand imagination? Maybe some bits. The rest, well, it's okay.

Sorry, fans! I think I wanted to love this based on the premise. The bad guys were pretty cool but nothing really that spectacular. A certain assassin, notwithstanding.
Profile Image for Chad.
7,732 reviews869 followers
May 3, 2019
I decided to read this after seeing the movie and surprisingly enjoying it. The book pretty much follows the same plot as the movie with some minor differences. I didn't realize dystopian future steampunk was a thing but Reeve makes it work. In the distant future, cities rove the Earth on giant tracks gobbling up smaller cities for their dwindling resources. As one character says, "It's a town eat town world." It's such a nutjob idea that I had to read more. The characters are well-written. The world building is original and fantastic. I mean, can you get more original than giant cities driving across the earth gobbling each other up? I really like what Reeve put together and I'll definitely be checking out the other three books in the series.
Profile Image for Mimi.
694 reviews191 followers
November 17, 2018
This book gets a solid OKAY from me: good for young adult, but just fine overall. There was one thing about it that I couldn't get behind, and that one thing got in the way of my enjoyment. More on that below.

Generally speaking, this writing was too young for me, but this time I say that as an observation, not a critique, because it's written/meant for a younger audience (middle-grade level). Readers who enjoy YA would enjoy it as well, but the writing gave me that feeling that it was written with young readers in mind. Almost everything about it was geared toward young readers, from the young wholesome protagonists who are eager to throw themselves into the fray, to their fight to overthrow a corrupt system, to their grand magnanimous ideals, to the industrialized dystopian setting, to the bleak look at an environmentally devastating future, to the mustache twirling villains, to the non-stop action, and the list goes on, right into the spoilers. So I'll stop listing things here.

I would recommend this book to young readers and anyone looking forward to seeing the movie adaptation. It's a little violent for YA, with some characters getting killed rather graphically, but the ideas and visuals and hydraulics this book inspire will look incredible on screen.

To get to that one thing that took me out of the story, I have to explain a little about the set-up. The conceit, Municipal Darwinism, is really interesting. The execution, though, is... not as interesting. Municipal Darwinism is basically big cities consuming smaller cities. Once consumed, the smaller cities get broken into parts and their resources are used to fuel the bigger cities. The people who are consumed either assimilate and resettle in the new city or they are enslaved; it all depends on how "ethical" the cities doing the consuming are.

Not all big cities are predators though. A few of them are peaceful, and survive by trading with smaller municipals. (I find them more interesting than the predators and wanted to find out more about them, but this story's focus is on predator cities.)
“It was a dark, blustery afternoon in spring, and the city of London was chasing a small mining town across the dried-out bed of the old North Sea.”

These cities aren't just cities stuck on land, though. They're traction cities. Yeah, that's right, they can move. They can run actually. Up to 100 km per hour, if I remember correctly. Yeah... This was where the book lost me. I could not imagine a city the size of London running around the world eating almost everything in sight at roughly 60 to 100 km per hour. I mean, the weight it carries alone would snap its appendages clean off every time it tries to move forward. Unless, somehow, the atmosphere is less dense and/or gravity is no longer a thing in this world... I don't know. I could imagine everything this book threw at me, everything but cities running around on traction.

Apparently not being able to buy into this one thing unravels the whole book because I found the rest of the story hard to take in while I tried to work out how London was racing across the world, gulping down other cities.

I went through the same thing with Updraft by Fran Wilde. The ideas introduced--bone towers and flying contraptions--were really interesting, but the ways in which they were incorporated into the story and dystopian setting didn't make much sense to me, and that took me right out of the world the author tried so hard to create. And once it lost me, I could not get back into it.

So that was my stumbling block for Mortal Engines. Wish I could have liked it more because it's got four more books in the series, and I love series (but I love solid world building more). So not dismissing these books completely, just gonna put it on the maybe list for now.

Cross-posted at https://covers2covers.wordpress.com/2...
Profile Image for Patricia Bejarano.
436 reviews5,404 followers
November 5, 2018
Una historia que tenía mucho potencial y que se ha quedado en nada...
Sin duda me moría por leer este libro, y más acercándose la salida de la adaptación cinematográfica, pero hubiera sido mejor ver solo la película y no atravesar el sufrimiento que me hecho pasar este libro.
Lo primero es que la narración es insufrible. Con este tipo de narrativa solo podían salir unos personajes insoportables, egoístas y que sufren durante la novela una involución (para mi gusto). Jamás llegas a empatizar con ellos y eso es algo que necesito siempre cuando leo una historia.
Si tiene un dos y no un uno es por el mundo que ha creado el autor. Me ha parecido de lo más original, de verdad, y al principio incluso interesante, pero eso, al principio... luego todo lo guay va quedando a un lado, se deshincha y se centran en otras cosas que no importan para nada.
Y bueno, sencillamente el libro me ha parecido soberanamente aburrido. A parte de que es lento, todos los momentos de acción sabían a poco y ocurrían muy de vez en cuando y no grandes escenas para lo que podría ser. Era incapaz de tener ganas de leer, me tenía que obligar, y eso no me gusta. Normalmente abandono este tipo de lecturas que estoy disfrutando tan poco, pero quería ver si mejoraba, pensad que tenía muchas ganas de leerlo y de ver la película, así que eso era lo único que me motivaba. Ahora ni siquiera quiero ver la película. Y si la veo, rezo para que Jackson hiciera muchos cambios...
¿Lo recomiendo? Pues no mucho, la verdad. Y es que no termina aquí, hay tres malditos libros más. Yo no me apunto a rizar más el rizo, lo siento. He tenido suficiente con este libro.
Profile Image for Ken.
2,165 reviews1,323 followers
December 1, 2018
A post-apocalypse dystopian future where cities survive by traveling on tank like vehicles - I was instantly sold on the idea the first time I caught the trailer for the forthcoming movie.
I had to read the book!

I love the world that Reeve has created, London feels so familiar yet different here.
The idea that big cities can consume smaller locations was such an intriguing narrative, though eerily felt too similar to our own expansion and building on rural areas.

The wordplay and descriptions were great, my favourite being the pirate town called ‘Tunbridge Wheels’.
It was clearly a nod to the Kent town Tunbridge Wells, though I wonder how many American readers would have missed that reference?
Profile Image for Phoenix2.
807 reviews98 followers
October 9, 2018
Because of the movie coming out soon, I've picked up this book hoping for a great adventure. And yes, the story is actually really good, but the writing isn't. Is like having a great idea but not executing it properly. Now, Tom, the lead character, was likable and had a major character development. I liked that he was a realistic hero and he did what we all would have done in his shoes. I also liked Kate and her story. Actually, her story was the most interesting one. As a character, Kate was sweet, perky and the kind of girl who takes things in her hands and works to achieve what she wants. I liked her even better than Hester, as Hester's character was kind of a dull one. The only thing that marked who she was was her scar. Other than that she was just acting like a bully from time to time, but didn't show any real character or personality. Finally, the ending was really good. I didn't expect that to happen. But it was tragic as well and really really sad.
Profile Image for Angelica.
805 reviews1,131 followers
March 5, 2019
Well, that was a lot darker and bloodier than I expected from a children's book.

Profile Image for AH.
2,005 reviews370 followers
April 14, 2011
Most awesome book 4.5 stars!

"It’s a town-eat-town world.” –Municipal Darwinism

Municipal Darwinism is a concept that hooked me right from the first page. Imagine a society where hungry cities roam, searching for prey. Imagine these huge cities, shaped like giant steel tiered wedding cakes rumbling around the countryside gobbling up smaller towns and settlements. Imagine the noise, the dust, and the deep tracks in the mud. This is the intriguing world of the Mortal Engines.

This is a world set far into the future. Society has been destroyed by atomics and viruses in the Sixty Minute War. Cities became traction cities because of earthquakes, volcanic activity, and advancing glaciers.

This book is full of awesomeness! The author’s attention to details and his story telling talent made this a rich and textured read. The world building was, for lack of a better word, awesome. The technology is interesting. There are elements of steampunk. Everything usable is recycled. Society is even organized in hierarchies, but in this world, everyone is assigned to a guild.

There be pirates in this book! There are airships, even an Airship city! There are resurrected men, a type of robot/zombie/Borg-like creature. There is even the mystical town of Shan Gao, a city protected from traction cities by its geography. This book is a feast for the eyes.

I adored the main characters. Tom Natsworthy is a young, idealistic third class apprentice in the Guild of Historians. This means that he does a lot of dusting and cleaning of artifacts. He likes his job and is very loyal to the city of London. Tom lost his parents a few years ago in the Great Tilt (which is never explained in the book. I’m assuming the city tilted and some people got squished). Hester Shaw is truly an interesting character. Seven years ago, Hester’s parents were murdered by Valentine. Hester was also attacked and left for dead. Hester is heavily scarred by her ordeal and has vowed to kill Valentine. Valentine’s daughter Katherine plays the role of dutiful daughter until she learns of her father’s nefarious activities. Aided by the engineer Bevis Pod (love that name!), Katherine seeks out the truth. I found these characters endearing and I felt like cheering them on when they encountered obstacles.

And these characters encountered many obstacles. Tom and Hester are thrown off the city, captured by pirates, rescued by an airship captain, chased by a resurrected man and more. Added to this mix of adventure was the mysterious MEDUSA, some kind of weapon from an earlier civilization.

This is a clever, well written book. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to reading Predator’s Gold, the next book in this series. By the way, I handed my 11 year old this book and he was also hooked - he loves it!
Profile Image for Raquel Estebaran.
293 reviews176 followers
January 13, 2022
Una novela con una premisa única y original, ciudades que se desplazan y se alimentan de otras, pero no se ahonda en el por qué de su condición. Ojalá.

Entretenida, pero un poco decepcionante en su ejecución. La trama es muy normalita, y los personajes tampoco son para tirar cohetes.

Profile Image for Emily.
119 reviews4 followers
July 3, 2007
I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. It's has a great concept: mobile cities roam Europe "eating" each other. It has a nice, if off-beat, feel for London. On the plus side, the novel actively attacks heroic ideals, leaving a darker, more morally ambiguous world view than I'd expected. I especially liked how Reeve initially juxtaposes the beautiful, "High London" girl Kate, who is oblivious to the oppression that keeps her world afloat, with a physically and mentally scarred Hester, who is bent on revenge: rather than use the beauty as a foil to show the inner beauty of the Hester, both are mixed characters and watching their personal growth was one of the most satisfying parts of the book.

However, the writing style is a little exposition heavy at times when it comes to the characters feelings and motivations, but becomes less obtrusive as the plot progresses. Some of the plot elements are pretty generic, such as the half-machine, half-resurrected corpse who hunts down the child he once protected (at one point, a character wonders if it's possible for this "machine" to have feelings: hmmmm . . . gee, you think so?). The female characters were very well-done, but I agree with several of the other reviews, that the protagonist, Tom, wasn't very interesting.

I'm debating about reading the rest of the trilogy now or waiting until later: I'm interested in seeing where Reeve goes with the plot, but not excited enough to pick up the volumes that are literally at my feet right now.
Profile Image for Lata.
3,609 reviews192 followers
June 15, 2018
3.5 stars (I think.) this was a surprisingly dark book. There are some great ideas here; I find the concept and the application of “municipal Darwinism” pretty scary. The numbers of people and resources destroyed just to keep the huge, moving city of London (and other smaller, moving cities and towns) going. And the classification of people into specific professions (Engineers, Historians, etc), which I had previously encountered in “Fever Crumb”, feels even more rigid and restricting. There are Anti-Tractionists choosing to live in stationary settlements and towns, in opposition to the voracious gobbling, moving towns . Then there’s the compromised environment, still not recovered after some unnamed number of centuries after the Sixty Minute War. Now that’s a chilling name.

And I haven’t even gotten to the characters Tom Natsworthy, Hester Shaw and Katherine. I can’t say I ever really liked or cared about Tom, while the girls were much more interesting. Hester with her ruined face, powerful need for revenge, and unloved self; Katherine’s naïveté about London and her father, and her caring and kindness and determination to discover the truth; both girls kept me reading. And I liked Anna Fang, aviatrix and spy, with a great name for her airship, Jenny Haniver.

So, a fascinating set of ideas, some interesting characters, and a gruesome future where people commit terrible acts to keep their cities fueled and fed. Much darker than I expected, but I may continue the series.
Profile Image for Phils Osophie.
183 reviews700 followers
December 23, 2018
Ich fand es wirklich toll! Ein außergewöhnliches Setting mit richtig interessantem Worldbuilding, sympathische Charaktere und eine solide Story. So mag ich Fantasy! Schade nur, dass die Verfilmung dazu absoluter Käse war.
Profile Image for Aaron Vincent.
94 reviews21 followers
March 24, 2011
Originally Posted on Guy Gone Geek

With the dystopian boom the market is now seeing, it’s kind of hard to find a true dystopian novel. Strange, isn’t it? There are lots of ‘dystopian’ novels being published these days but only few of it really fits the genre. Yeah, some books tries but that’s what makes the difference: it tries, it doesn’t just be. Gone was the bleak tone of the narrative. Gone was the relentless nature of the society. Gone was the subtle questions the readers have to ask themselves. What we have instead is a love story that happens to occur in a pseudo-dystopian– pseudo because it feels completely artificial– society. It sucks. I’m not saying that a dystopian novel can’t have a love story in it. It can but it doesn’t have to be the element that thrust the narrative forward and it certainly doesn’t have to be the only thing that defines and motivates the heroes. Remember MT Anderson’s Feed? One of the best in this genre, in my opinion. Romance was very prominent in that book but it was never wholly about the romance.

Of course, we have different standards as to what books we qualify as dystopian. I am just speaking for myself and I am simply not a fan of the kind of dystopian novels that are being published recently. How do I satisfy my hunger for books that in my standards qualifies as dystopian? I look for titles that were released before the genre became insanely popular. That is exactly how I came across Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines. I can say that this strategy works because Mortal Engines is an honest-to-goodness dystopian novel. I love it.

After a long time of staying idle, the London traction city is back on its wheels, ready to hunt smaller towns. Everyone in the city is excited including Tom Natsworthy, a third-class apprentice in the Guild of Historians. But after saving his hero who is also the city’s darling, Valentine, from an assassination attempt, he found himself thrown off the mobile city with no less that the would-be assassin herself, Hester Shaw. As he spends time with this mysterious and scarred girl and board mobile town after mobile town in hope of chasing his beloved city, he slowly uncover the truth behind the Lord Mayor’s decision to return to the Hunting Ground. Tom has to choose a side and act fast before history repeats itself and the civilization he know meets its doom.

One of the most notable things about Mortal Engines is Philip Reeve’s finesse on tying together pacing and world-building, something we don’t get to see too often. The world as we know it almost died after the so-called 60-Minute War, leaving few cities with a poisoned land and scarce resources. In order to survive to this kind of environment, these cities adapted Municipal Darwinism, a system in which they had to build their cities on wheels and hunt one another to get resources. This system resulted to a literal town-eats-town world. Without reading the book, it is rather hard to wrap your head around this idea but the amount of detail Philip Reeve puts into the novel made this idea appear plausible. It felt complete and it made a lot of sense.

After reading that paragraph, it would seem that this novel is heavy on world-building. It is not. Trust me, I put down a lot of epic fantasy books already because of its exhausting information dumps just to create a believable world. Mortal Engines is a mile far from those kind of books. There was not a point in the novel when Tom and Hester’s adventure was halted to give way to detailed explanations of how different their world is from us. It’s an exhilirating chase to the breathtaking(and harrowing) finale. You’d be at the edge of your seat every moment of their thrilling adventure.

The complexity of the characters are also worth mentioning. As we explore the vast emptiness of the Hunting Ground, we are also introduced to the characters, who they are, what they want and what motivates them. This doesn’t applies only to the lead characters but also the secondary ones, and it’s a pretty big cast, mind you. These characters make the terrible mistakes and pay for it later on. They have unpleasant motivations. They are certainly the kind of people in their history that almost killed earth. These characters are incredibly flawed that makes them incredibly human.

Mortal Engines can be enjoyed on so many levels. Philip Reeve is an author that doesn’t compromise. The amount of thought he gave into realizing his imagined world, weaving plot points, creating tension and drawing complex characters makes this novel worth-reading. This is a very gripping and grim story set in a fully-realized dystopian society — this is exactly how I want my dystopian novels served.
Profile Image for Wei Cho.
212 reviews31 followers
July 25, 2012
Dear reader,


I don’t have enough words to describe how much I enjoyed this book. The genre, post-apocalyptic steampunk science fiction, has made it into one of my top favourite genres; it totally submerged me intoa new world. Reeve introduces us into a new, strange, colourful, yet gritty world, ruled by “MunicipalDarwinism” (town-eat-town world). His world-building was exceptional, creating an adventurous environment where cities move and “eat” each other to take control of their resources and their people.

The story is set into an alternate post-apocalyptic era, where the Earth as we know it was destroyed by the Sixty-minute war. Thereafter, the survivors built cities with claws on wheels to travel the grounds and eat each other. Municipal Darwinism is a version of Darwin’s “survival of the fittest”, but applied to entire moving cities, their resources, and their people.

There are people in favour of the moving cities and those who oppose it completely (static settlements). This story weaves idea of imperialism (which city is the most fearsome and powerful), civilization, terrorism, freedom fighting, and environmentalism (with ideals of turning the world green again) and blends them into the plot. The plot is fast-paced and action and adventure oriented; everything happens so fast that you don’t want to miss anything. My mouth dropped several times because of the unexpected and continuous twists.

The two main characters are completely opposite to each other, and yet complement each other. In the one hand, Tom Natsworthy, an apprentice historian, has preconceived notions of nobility and what’s right from wrong, and of civility, which shapes his shy, reluctant, and almost cowardly character in the face of danger. On the other hand, Hester Shaw is not the usual beautiful and suffocating sweet girl in order to be likable; she is described as a hideous, blood-thirsty, and strong girl. I dare say she is my favourite character because she is not the damsel in distress; instead, she is cunning, smart, resourceful, and deadly.

Through Tom and Hester’s adventure, we get a glimpse of the main elements of the story as they travel together through the Out-Country on foot; evading a Resurrected Man built with ancient technology that is trying to kill them, and rushing to save the world’s largest static settlement, Shan Guo, from its total destruction by a deadly weapon (Medusa), created by the London engineers. A real page turner with airships, quirky gods, and cities moving along barren lands, this is an adventure you wouldn’t want to miss. Highly recommended.

Real page turner.
Will leave you with your mouth WIDE OPEN.
You will be "OMG-ing" ALL the time.
Totally unexpected twists.

Happy reading.

my fondest valedictory,

Profile Image for Jason Pettus.
Author 18 books1,279 followers
October 23, 2019
I really knew nothing about Philip Reeve's seven-book (and counting) young adult "Mortal Engines" series up to recently, but got convinced to pick it up through an article at the blog for science-fiction publisher Tor, because the premise sounded so insane: first humanity blows itself up with nuclear weapons, which then kicks off a chain of natural disasters like new volcanos, which then leads humanity to build motorized wheel platforms for all their cities so they can be packed up and moved at a moment's notice, which a thousand years later has turned into a series of weaponized island-states that roam the wasteland of central Europe and battle each other for resources. Yet Reeve somehow makes it all stick together, astounding given that he's decided to tell the whole story through the prism of complex steampunk world-building on top of everything else. Granted, it's written specifically in the simplified vocabulary designed for a younger audience, which is why I'm not going to bother with any of the other six books in the series; but this was a great rollicking read just by itself, all action and mythos-building all the time, one that creates a great lived-in universe then plunks us down in the middle of it. Strongly recommended, not to mention its underrated movie adaptation by Peter Jackson and company, which any fan of the book will plainly love yet was one of the ten worst movie bombs in history.
Profile Image for Jessica.
Author 31 books5,632 followers
January 5, 2019
So, it's one of the rare cases where I liked the movie better, but the book is still very, very good.

The main characters are charming, and the world is FASCINATING. My 14yo son read the book before we saw the movie, and he also preferred the movie, but is still planning to read the entire series. I might, but I've been hearing from a lot of people about how the prequel series, FEVER CRUMB, is their favorite, so I think I'll go to those first.

The movie was full of pretty people running around, which is what I like to see in a movie. The people in the book are not pretty. It's much more realistic, but I am rather glad that one of the main characters was NOT missing an eye and a nose on screen! The book is also more realistic in that there are more people presented as being morally gray, rather than there being one Big Bad Guy the Good Guys have to defeat. There's a lot of people working for their own goals or who have their own loyalties, and who are we to say they're wrong? Which was really quite interesting!
Profile Image for Jeraviz.
915 reviews408 followers
December 3, 2018
El término "Darwinismo municipal" es de lo mejor que he leído en mucho tiempo. La idea de que las ciudades se mueven y se coman unas a otras puede dar lugar a mil historias y aquí el autor nos cuenta una trama muy entretenida pero muy cercana al Young Adult. Personajes y situaciones bien construidas pero bastante simples en el fondo. Pero me ha encantado, a veces lo único que necesitas es que te entretenga y esto lo consigue.
Además, lo he escuchado en audiolibro y el narrador, Raúl Llorens, lo hace especialmente bien.
January 28, 2021
Leider war das Buch für mich eine komplette Enttäuschung. Ich habe so viel mehr erwartet, gerade nachdem es Vorlage für einen „Kino-Blockbuster“ war. Ich war richtig gespannt auf die Welt und das System der fahrenden Städte, aber was blieb, war ein mangelnder Weltenbau und eine halbherzige Umsetzung der Idee, sodass ich die ganze Welt unglaubwürdig und als nicht authentisch wahrgenommen habe.
Mein größtes Problem war der Schreibstil. Der ist so flach und unemotional, dass die Geschichte oder Charaktere keinerlei Tiefe entwickeln. Ich hatte sehr häufig das Gefühl, dass ich ein Kinderbuch lesen würde, da es keinerlei Details gab und die Geschichte eher aus Zusammenfassungen von Situationen bestand. Ebenso fanden Gespräche statt, in denen drei mal was gesagt wurde und dann zusammenfassend das Endergebnis des Gesprächs genannt wurde. Die Geschichte rast nur so vor sich hin. Tom hält es keine zwei Seiten an einem Ort aus und ist nach 100 Seiten schon sechs mal über den Kontinent gereist und übrigens sind zwischen einem Absatz mehrere Wochen vergangen. Ebenso schnell wechseln Emotionen. Innerhalb einer halben Seite rastet Tom aus, deklariert alle umstehenden Menschen als „die Bösen“ und stellt sich auf Londons Seite, geht spazieren und merkt plötzlich: „Ne, ich muss London bekämpfen!“ Diese und viele weiteren Gefühlswandlungen sind überhaupt nicht nachvollziehbar gestaltet und so war es mir dann auch irgendwann egal, wer was macht. „Show, don‘t tell“ wurde hier definitiv übergangen.
Wo wir schon über Tom sprechen...die Charaktere waren allesamt eindimensional und wahrscheinlich auch nicht besonders intelligent. Sie besitzen keinerlei Tiefe, sagen ständig ungefiltert was sie denken, wodurch es überhaupt keine Überraschungen, Geheimnisse oder hinterlistigen Pläne gibt. Jeder besitzt nur eine Motivation nach der er handelt und niemand macht eine Entwicklung durch. Tom sortiert alle weiblichen Wesen in seinem Alter nur nach „hässlich“ und „wunderschön“. Wie oft erwähnt er, dass Hesters Gesicht gerade „grässlich“ oder „scheußlich“ aussieht? Achja auf jeder Seite, wo sie mal miteinander zu tun haben, nachdem er auch nochmal ihren grummeligen Charakter erwähnt. Aber hey, er lernt sie gern zu haben- was für ein Gutsmensch! Einzig Katherine entwickelt sich etwas weiter und ihren Handlungsstrang fand ich dazu auch interessant. Aber auch hier hab ich den Kopf geschüttelt, als jemand, der ihr viel bedeutet, vor ihren Augen stirbt, sie überlegt ob sie hingehen soll und dann jedoch erkennt „wie sinnlos es wäre, überhaupt seinen Namen zu rufen“ und geht. Sie denkt nie wieder über ihn nach...Was zur Hölle? 😅
Und wo wir schon über einen Toten sprechen...das es ein Kinderbuch sein könnte, widerlegt der Berg an Leichen, der sich vor den Charakteren aufbaut. Tom lernt ungefähr 100 verschiedene Menschen, Orte und Städte kennen und wer am Ende übrig bleibt kann ich an einer Hand abzählen. Die Morde werden kurz und knapp geschildert und als Tom eine ihm bekannte Figur tot vor sich daliegen sieht, stellt er fest, dass sie „dümmlich“ in den Himmel starrt. Ein Glück war es keine Frau, sonst hätte sie entweder hässlich oder wunderschön und dümmlich in den Himmel gestarrt.

Leider eine absolute Enttäuschung und keine Empfehlung von meiner Seite.
Profile Image for Amy.
285 reviews177 followers
November 23, 2019
DNF on page 158 .

This was just really, really boring. And bad. Boring and Bad.

I'm not sure what the target age group is for this book. Is it middle grade or YA? The characters are woefully immature/one-dimensional/trope-y yet this story had it's violent elements as well. The simple writing style seems to be targeted towards younger readers, but the main characters were teenagers and adults? I don't even know. I guess it doesn't matter, but I'm not sure how I was meant to read this book. If this is YA, then it's really bad YA. If it's middle grade, it's still bad but maybe I could understand why it was so fast-paced and vague and poorly developed. Maybe.

I was hoping for something... different. The first two chapters or so were very engaging and were setting this up to be a unique, fast-paced, one-of-a-kind type of story. Then it fell horribly flat and I couldn't find it in me to care or continue.

I'm not even sure who the main character was supposed to be. I felt like every character had like, one personality trait and that was it. The author did a lot of telling and not showing, just dumping backstories for each character very clumsily into the narrative and not bothering to expand beyond that. I felt like I didn't know the characters at all, despite reading about them for over half of the book's length. The only character that left an impression on me was Tom, and that was because I was shocked at how a fifteen year old boy could act like such a stupidly immature ten year old. I was expecting more from Hester but she wasn't... doing anything. Or saying anything. Or contributing to the story in any real way. Which is basically what every character was doing in this story.

Yeah, this was just really not good. The pacing was weird, the world had potential but ended up being weird, the plot was boring, the characters were totally unmemorable, and I just don't know what the point was. If you read over half of a book and still have no idea where it's going that's probably a bad sign. Maybe I would have enjoyed this if I was in middle school or something, but as a grown adult... it's a no.
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