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Saturday, 14 April 2012

M for Mortal Engines

Books selected so far have been those written in the 19th or 20th century, but here is one that was written this century and represents a break from the past in a startling and original way whilst retaining the very best of all that has gone before. 

It is not a book I would have read by choice, it was part of a recent university children's creative writing course I was completing, but it was an amazing experience to find something so outstanding, gripping and entertaining whilst dealing with such wide ranging philosophical questions.  


Book review of Mortal Engines by  Philip Reeve (2001) - taken  from the site Reading Matters. 



"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." 

You'll need to familiarise yourself with the theory of Municipal Darwinism for this brilliant book. The first thing you need to know is that it is a town eat town world, out there in the Great Hunting Ground:
The little town was so close that he could see the ant-like shapes of people running about on its upper tiers. How frightened they must be, with London bearing down on them and nowhere to hide! But he knew he mustn't feel sorry for them: it was natural that cities ate towns, just as the towns ate smaller towns, and smaller towns snapped up the miserable static settlements. That was Municipal Darwinism, and it was the way the world had worked for a thousand years, ever since the great engineer Nikolas Quirke had turned London into the first Traction City. "London! London!" he shouted, adding his voice to the cheers and shouts of everybody else on the platform, and a moment later they were rewarded by the sight of one of Salthook's wheels breaking loose. The town slewed to a halt, smokestacks snapping off and crashing down into the panicked streets, and then London's lower tiers blocked it from view and Tom felt the deck-plates shiver as the city's huge hydraulic Jaws came slamming shut.
Now, it may be a vast, sophisticated city, but London is cobbled together from bits of scrap metal and Old-Tech. Some of the scavenged Old-Tech goes straight to the Guild of Historians to be preserved, and some goes to the powerful Guild of Engineers. Sometimes the Engineers can work out how to recreate the old technology from their bits and pieces, and sometimes they can't.
This story is about what happens when Valentine the Explorer brings back to London a malignant piece of Old-Tech, known as Medusa. The thing is, if London really proposes to recreate an ancient weapon of mass destruction, then mass destruction is going to be one of the inevitable consequences. So Valentine finds he has quite a few enemies. For a start, there is the grossly disfigured Hester Shaw, whose parents he killed in his quest to obtain possession of Medusa:
A terrible scar ran down her face from forehead to jaw, making it look like a portrait that had been furiously crossed out. Her mouth was wrenched sideways in a permanent sneer, her nose was a smashed stump and her single eye stared at him out of the wreckage, as grey and chill as a winter sea.
And there is Tom, Third Class Apprentice of the Guild of Historians. He just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Valentine pushes him down the waste chute after Hester Shaw because he fears he knows too much about Hester Shaw. But neither Tom nor Hester Shaw are killed by their fall down the waste chute. They land in the soft mud of the Out-Country, and so begins an uneasy alliance, which gradually firms up into friendship, and even something more.
There's a lot about loyalty and trust in this wild and dangerous story. You might find the landscape of massive, trundling cities faintly amusing, but if you happen to turn round and look behind you while you are reading, you will see the dead bodies piling up at an alarming rate! Highly enjoyable! Highly recommended!

24 comments:

Pk Hrezo said...

Sounds really great! I love it when books you weren't expecting to like turn out fab!

Carole Anne Carr said...

Yes, I can recommend this as a great read, PK.

Christine Rains said...

That sounds good. Thanks for the recommendations throughout the Challenge!

klahanie said...

Dear Carole,
I'm ever so sorry that I've been absent from you blog for so long. I've been doing a bit of a tour checking out the numerous blogs that are doing the alphabet challenge that I'm not involved in.
Thus, dear friend, I'm finally here and I note the mention of a book that I'm somewhat familiar with and now I'm contemplating having a further read of it.
May you and your loved ones have a most peaceful weekend. In kindness and happy writing your way, Gary
x

Crack You Whip said...

Great recommendation! Thanks!

Charmaine Clancy said...

You're doing a great job keeping up with so many book reviews this month!
Wagging Tales

Carole Anne Carr said...

I have enjoyed writing about my favourite children's books, Christine!

Carole Anne Carr said...

Not to worry, Gary, what with the talks, the county fairs, providing meals for visitors, housework, I'm not writing as much as I should, and apart from this A to Z, I haven't visited sufficient blogs either. x

Carole Anne Carr said...

Lovely to see you here, Tracie, and love your humour and illustrations.

Carole Anne Carr said...

Thanks, Charmaine, I like nothing better than thinking about and re-reading my favourite children's novels, when not desperately trying to find the time to write my own. Still struggling with the fifth!

Margo Berendsen said...

Municipal darwinism - how creative!!! I have heard of this book, but didn't know any details. Thank you for sharing. I'm another childrens book lover visiting via the A-Z blogger list.

Carole Anne Carr said...

Thanks for the visit, Margo, lovely to see you here.

Retro-Zombie said...

Nice post, making it happen...

Jeremy [Retro-Zombie]
A to Z Co-Host
My New Book:
Retro-Zombie: Art and Words

SweetMarie83 said...

Sounds like an interesting read!

Dropping by from the A to Z Challenge. I love the header and sides of your blog...I keep scrolling up to look again!

Carole Anne Carr said...

Thanks, Jeremy.

Carole Anne Carr said...

Thanks, Marie, I won the blog design, but I don't think the designer charges a great deal, the details are on the bottom of my blog.

Joylene said...

I'm bookmarking this page for my children's book list. It's huge, thanks to you, Carole. Hope you're having a wonderful new week. This book sounds great, and besides, any recommendation from you is enough reason to buy.

Carole Anne Carr said...

You won't be disappointed with this one, Joylene. :0)

Elizabeth Mueller said...

Ooh, great story!


Elizabeth
A to Z co-host

Susan Kane said...

Your book recommendations are great. Thanks.

Carole Anne Carr said...

Thanks, Elizabeth.

Carole Anne Carr said...

I'm enjoying sharing some wonderful writing, Susan.

Rosalind Adam said...

I too read this book as part of a book group choice rather than my own. It's not my usual choice of read but I really enjoyed it. It was refreshingly different.
Hi, I popped by from the A to Z list.
A to Z of Nostalgia

Carole Anne Carr said...

Hi, Rosalind, thanks for the visit.

 
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