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Book Club - by Suhaili

Mortal Engines

June 14th 2006 06:59
This is a British 'teen fiction' book that really deserves a lot more attention in Australia. While Harry Potter, Eragon, Dragon Rider, etc, continue to ride the conventions of fantasy and mine Dragon-lore for all it's worth (and more) there are authors out there like Philip Reeve, who are doing something truly original in fantasty fiction without the kudos or popularity the more derivative pap in Children's fiction tends to enjoy.
Mortal Engines
Mortal Engines by Philip Reeves

The first in Philip Reeves' four-book fantasy series is 'Mortal Engines' (the fourth book should see release either towards the end of this year or the beginnings of 2007). My copy has a variety of award stickers on the front declaring it the 'Nestle Book Prize Gold Award Winner', 'The Blue Peter Bok of the Year 2003' and (more impressively) a shortlisted entrant for the 'Whitbread Children's Book of the Year' (probably the most pretigous prize a children's book can win - past winners include books by Roald Dahl, J.K.Rowling and Philip Pullman). So... it seemed to do pretty well back in England. C'mon guys, England isn't that far removed from Australia - can't we show a little love?

Anyway... 'Mortal Engines' isn't a stupendously massive book like some other books of it's genre (Harry Potter 5: 600 pages = a children's book? Hardly). In fact, for it's rather brisk pace and size it's surprisingly epic and manages to fit a fair bit in. It is a book to be commended for it's pacing and scope. All of which - obviously - make for tremendous readibility. Now, before I launch into a brief rundown of what 'Mortal Engines' is about I'd like for you to suspend your disbelief, take my word and be assured that the ideas and basis of this book are very well-done and not at all childish in execution. There is a strong basis of science behind it all, even the most fantastic elements are grounded in the possible - there is no magic (strictly-speaking, it isn't really a fantasy book I guess, but for all intents and purposes let's just say it is).

This is the future some few thousands years from now. The cogs of industry have proven to be the death of the world as we know it... cities have been mounted on traction-belts and now adhere to the laws of Municipal Darwinism - eat or be eaten. Cities grow and expand by catching and salvaging smaller settlements (also on traction-belts), the biggest cities are the biggest predators and they travel across the Great Hunting Ground in search of prey. But prey is getting scarce, and terrorists known as the Anti-Tractionist League are making things hard for a city like London. The Mayor of London, however, has a secret weapon up his sleeve...

Through this wonderful and inventive world we are introduced to a variety of colourful characters... heroes and anti-heroes; a mixture of ambiguous larger-than-life types who (initially) make it hard for us to know who to cheer for and who to hate. Like our protagonist, apprentice Historian Tom, we are unsure at where we stand with this world and we have to question it's laws and rules alongside him. It's a very interesting set-up and one character in particular, Hester Shaw, makes this book standout from it's contemporaries in terms of it's breaking of moulds and stereotypes.
Mortal Engines
Mortal Engines, alternative (older/non-Australian) cover

It's also a very fun and exhilirating read, full of swashbuckling (yes, swashbuckling!) and roaring adventure across vast and dangerous landscapes. It's a pocket-sized epic, and the ending is very strong and finite for a book in a children's series (it doesn't leave any loose threads hanging about, everything is tied up neatly). You'll still want more though, and I'm pleased to say that the overall high quality of characters, plot, etc, etc continues right through to the next book 'Predator's Gold'. Go read these books now!

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2 Comments. [ Add A Comment ]

Comment by Anonymous

October 23rd 2007 16:51
my favourite books!!!!

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