Tourtuous Review: The Mortal Engines Quartet

Apparently, DeviantArt thinks I 'need' Prem Membership. No, DA. I don't need it. You need me to buy it. I just want it... and you know the best way to make me not get something, even if I want it? Tell me I need it.

So... screw you DA. You just lost out on this month's internet wasted pennies allowance.

I HATE it when someone absolutely insists I'll like something. A part of my brain just clicks into contrary mode. Even if I wanted to like it, chances are I'd have to fight past the block that you, yes you, just put in my head. I don't want it there. I WANT to like and enjoy things people recommend to me.

If someone I know is enthusiastic about something chances are I'll enjoy it too (there are some exceptions; Mighty Boosch, Metalocalypse, Ouran, Legend of Zelda). Tompl told me Dr Horrible was awesome and I love it. Blue_Alice told me Boondocks was hilarious, and so it was. However, the very second someone tells me they think they know my tastes, I become quite indifferent to their geekdom.

I admit it; I dislike things just because someone seems to think I will like them. I try to fight it, honestly I do... it took me years to enjoy The Simpsons. Luckily, some things are just too god damn amazing for my faulty brain activity to fight the love.

The Mortal Engines Quartet is one of these. Blue_Alice and DrMagister (you can find all these crazy names on Twitter, btw) squeed about these children's books for months... and it took me even more months to sit down and read the first one, and that was only because I had nothing else to read (well, I did, but you know what I mean; nothing I felt like reading... a lot of heavy tomes). I was told, in no uncertain terms, that I'd love them.

Yeah... *sigh*

They are amazing though. It is very rare that I will bother hunting down the next book in a series. I'll usually just wait for fate to drop it in a charity/second hand book shop for me. With The Quartet (and another series I'll talk about once I've finished it) I've been actively seeking them out in Waterstones (well, second hand first, obviously).

It begins with Tom Natsworthy, a teenage boy in London, dusting down museum exhibits while mooning over a) a girl that is way out of his league and b) adventures in the sky. The lovely lady may or may not notice him, but adventure is definitely soon to come his way; London is chasing down another, smaller city for dinner.

Yes, dinner. The cities in this future world can move. They roll around on massive wheels and caterpillar tracks, or skate across the Northern wastes on huge blades. Towns eat small villages, turning inhabitants into slaves and using their resources to increase in size. Cities eat towns, bigger cities eat smaller cities. It's referred to as Municipal Darwinism and our young hero believes completely in the rightness of this idea... well to begin with, anyway.

Betrayal and attempted murder leave him stranded in the tracks of his city as it trundles away without him. His company is a hideously deformed, skinny, angry young woman named Hester Shaw. They find other towns and survive, time and again, the attempts on their lives (by pirates of land, sea and air, cyborgs, evil scientists, malicious archaeologists) and... well, I'll say this much; they do NOT live happily ever after.

Philip Reeve doesn't believe in happy endings. He puts his characters through hell over and over... even death gives them no respite. He's no fan of 'cool' either. The hero is a bumbling, ever scarred boy who never thinks before he acts and the heroine is a hideous, deeply disturbed girl whose morality is quite questionable. Almost every adult is evil or useless and the ones that are not are pretty much in it for themselves. Even the few characters that start off looking awesome turn out to be duplicitous murderers/mass murderers. How many authors could carry that off and still be placed in the 9-11/young teen section?

These are fun, wholesome books about people with faults, many faults (some are nothing but faults, held together by sheer will alone), set in a fascinatingly original world, mixed with a yummy dose of steam-punk (and coats... Reeve seems to love describing coats). As the series continues, the world grows. We learn more about what events led to the destruction of America (oh, did I not mention that?) and the placement of cities on wheels. Reeve introduces us (with marvellous descriptions of each) to armoured cities, cities on skates, floating (sea and air) cities, submerged cities and, of course, the rebellious statics; motionless cities whose inhabitants wage war against the rollers.

Much of the series is based around one group or another hunting down or talking about 'ancient tech' and the relics of lost civilisations. Some of these silly remnants of our own culture which the people of the future give great value to (seedees, tin foil, crushed drinks cans) and some are powerful weapons created by people in our future. While much of what happens in the books is dark and very sad (one young boy, in particular, will pull at your heart string every single time he's mentioned), Reeve manages to bring in some light comedy and whimsy with not only his ancient artefacts, but also some of the more colourful characters and their antics.

I'll say no more of the three books set after Mortal Engines, for fear of letting you know who lives and who dies... many people die, but I'll leave you to find out which ones. You can pick up the first in the series for 99p in Waterstones stores, or you can grab it from any number of other book sellers.

Oh, by the way; for some reason the series is called The Hungry City Chronicles in America. Not half as cool sounding as Mortal Engines... but whatever >_>
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