Book Review: Mortal Engines

‘You aren’t a hero and I’m not beautiful and we probably won’t live happily ever after…’

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The Hunger Games trilogy is often cited as being the source of the many copy-Kat(niss) films that came after, with Divergent, Maze Runner and others all following the formula of the massively successful sci-fi series. In reality however, sci-fi and fantasy in literature enjoyed it’s golden age almost a decade before. While the wildly heralded His Dark Materials trilogy is the most well known YA book from that time, Mortal Engines is almost as compelling without being as didactic and overtly sermonic as Phillip Pullman’s masterpiece.

In the distant future, towns and cities have literally uprooted themselves and now roam the barren landscape on mechanical wheels looking to devour anything in their path. Tom Natsworthy, a low-level apprentice historian holds the key to unlocking the truth about the tainted society that dwells beneath the smiling veneer of 30th century London.

Mortal Engines wears its influences on its sleeve with Mad Max1984 and any story featuring an orphan all looming large on the landscape of Phillip Reeve’s novel. Despite the obvious starting points, the general concept behind Mortal Engines is pretty unique, it took my monkey brain a good few chapters to get used to the notion of cities travelling round on wheels.

The thing that sets Mortal Engines apart from it’s many peers however is the characters. Instead of stock baddies and goodies we are treated to well drawn and fully realised roles that are sometimes over the top but never boring.

The key to a children’s literature is not talking down to the reader. This is the only way to ensure that a book can become cross-generational, something to be cherished by adult and child alike. Mortal Engines is replete with gory imagery and over the top violence, but it is the mature characterisation that makes Phillip Reeve’s novel such a resounding success.

A film adaptation co-written by Peter Jackson is due to drop this winter. Get on Mortal Engines now before it is everywhere. Or go and make yourself a sandwich instead, I don’t care…


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