Mortal Engines

Style: Good

Attitude: Unobjectionable

In Brief: Tremendously imaginative; questionable actions of some freedom guerilla fighters

Cover of Mortal Engines

Author: Philip Reeve

Series: Mortal Engines

Publisher: Scholastic

Published in: 2001

Age Range: Young Teens+

Period: Future

Genres:  SciFi


Apprentice Tom Natsworthy becomes involved with the Anti-Traction League when he tries to save his hero from attack.

In the distant future, following the laws of Municipal Darwinism, London and most other towns and cities, are now huge vehicles, roaming the Hunting Grounds of what used to be Europe and devouring smaller prey they come across, recycling and assimilating. Tom Natsworthy is a 15-year-old apprentice historian who admires the head Historian, Thaddeus Valentine. However, when he tries to defend Valentine against an assassin, he is astonished that the Historian pushes him out of the city into the Out-Country where he must fight for survival among roaming towns and cities (Speedwell, Tunbridge Wheels) and the zealots of the Anti-Traction League, behind their shield wall in Indo-China.


There is a tremendous imagination behind this book. While the characters tread the boards in front of the familiar alternative-Victorian backdrop used by many fantasy writers, there is such originality in the ideas of traction cities and the shield wall that one wants to read on and on.

Anna Fang, one of the heroes of the League, is a versatile and amoral fighter, quite prepared to use any means that further her end, however noble. The Engineers have transformed St Paul's Cathedral into a launching site for their own destructive weapon.

Tom blinked sleepily at him. He had almost forgotten the squalid little battle at the edge of the bog: the details were fading quickly like a dream. I killed Shrike, he thought. All right, so he was dead already, technically, but he was still a person. He had hopes and plans and dreams, and I put a stop to them all. He didn't feel like a hero, he felt like a murdererer, and the feeling of guilt and shame stayed with him, staining his dreams as his head drooped over the bowl of stew and he slipped away into sleep

Wednesday 2nd July 2003