Film review: Mortal Engines

I started reading Philip Reeve’s Predator City series last year, on the strength of the Mortal Engines trailer that was making the rounds at the time. The books are absolutely brilliant, and almost a year later, we have the first movie  delivered by Peter Jackson protege, Christian Rivers.

When you wait so long for a film to appear, you start to worry if it can be possibly as good as you want it to be; if the movie is based on a favourite book then the sense of apprehension doubles. Things get worse if you can only make the 3D showing …

So what was it like? Well, as you’d expect, it was a bit like The Hobbit for Steampunk fans …

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Predator’s Gold by Philip Reeve

I don’t usually crack straight on with a sequel straight after reading Book 1, but the whole Mortal Engines thing intrigued me. The whole setup was so well-done, so painstakingly executed that I wanted to see, from a purely technical viewpoint, if the author could maintain that level of commitment through to the sequel. In many cases, a second book comes across as a little bit tired – not so here. If anything, Predator’s Gold was even better than Mortal Engines.

61DiWWb-hRL.jpgThe writing was a lot more confident, and the characterisation, I felt, was  much deeper. Tom (our main protagonist) hadn’t really changed that much in the two years since we’d seen him, while Hester, his partner, has hardened (and I didn’t think that was possible) further into the kind of selfish and embittered survivor he needs to keep him alive. That’s the thing about Tom: he’s an almost passive observer to things going on around him, so  he sometimes seems to fade into the background, especially if he’s in a room with far more interesting people. Th rest of the characters are gloriously over the top: they’re either shockingly evil, in a Christmas pantomine sort of a way (YA fiction, remember?) or laugh-out-loud comical.

Like Mortal Engines, there are two really stand-out points with this novel. First off, the settings. The whole idea is magnificient. This notion that towns have evolved into almost living things that prey across the landscape of a ruined planet, lying in wait to devour smaller, unsuspecting towns is simply brilliant.

And secondly, we have the quality of the prose: tight, easy-flowing, not a single word goes to waste. Reeve has actually done something that is enormously tricky to pull off; he’s written the book in an omniscient viewpoint, dipping out of the characters heads, sometimes within the same paragraph. He’s made it work, and I can’t say I’ve read many authors that have managed to get that right.

Ten out of ten.

Book review: Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve

This is quite an old one; published in 2001 I believe, and it completely passed me by. I probably would’ve carried on walking past it in the book shop if not for the fact that Peter Jackson has made it into a movie (set for a December 2018 release). Saw the trailer, bought the book … and read it in about a day.

Thousands of years after a war that lasted just sixty minutes, the survivors of humanity wander the plains of Europe and Asia in Traction Cities: remnants of the post-war metropolises mounted on massive (and I do mean MASSIVE) engines. The Traction Cities ‘hunt’ smaller towns, stripping them down for fuel and parts and enslaving their population. I’ve posted the film trailer, which’ll give you an idea of how it works.

Not only do I love the concept, I love the way the story is told. It’s aimed at young adults, but it’s told in a simple literary style that manages to focus heavily on the characters without losing the connection to the surrounding action. The scene setting is brilliant; in fact I was hooked when I read the first paragraph, and the quality of the piece runs through right to the last page.

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