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 …
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.
The 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.