On December 14th 2018, Mortal Engines will be released in cinemas worldwide. Like a lot of the blockbusters out there, this one is based on a novel written by Phillip Reeve back in 2001. It’s the first of a tetralogy, which also includes Predator’s Gold (2003), Infernal Devices (2005), and A Darkling Plain (2006). The author has taken the notion of nuclear war and created a world presenting the aftermath of a mutually assured destruction. In this fantastic take on the future, people have turned cities into giant vehicles called Traction Cities. In order to survive, these cities eat other moving settlements, stealing resources, enslaving people and overall growing stronger. The novel focuses on life in the City of London and follows the adventures of an apprentice historian Tom and a mysterious unknown girl after they are thrown off the city.
Mortal Engines is a real underdog story in every aspect, be it the small traction towns struggling to survive against the giant cities or the colossal obstacles the characters have to face. The book is an easy read and perfectly set out for young readers. The story is told through the perspective of young people, which is an interesting way of viewing the sometimes dark and interesting themes in the book. One of those is the idea of humans repeating their past mistakes. The young characters quickly discover the irony in adults striving to be different from their ancestors who destroyed the world before.
The development of the action-packed story is guaranteed to keep those pages turning along with many intriguing characters. One character, in particular, will have you hooked to the book as her backstory is undoubtedly the most extensive as it ties into the plot in so many ways. Hester Shaw is strong, equipped with survival skills and resilient. Tom, on the other hand, the boy who is forced to tag along with her, is the opposite. Reeves has created a unique dystopian future that beats both Hunger Games and Divergent. He not only applies historic aspects to the future but also develops his own concept that he calls ‘Municipal Darwinism.’ The entire novel is based around Charles Darwin’s notion of ‘survival of the fittest’ with the only difference being that only one Traction City can survive.
It’s a little too early to tell if the book is better than the film. For the time being, the trailer reveals the blockbuster to have remained true to the novel. The big traction cities are brought to life in a perfect way and some of the characters seemed to have been portrayed well. Having said that, Hester’s disfigurement has been really flowered down and the snippets of the actress don’t show her to have assimilated the dark side of the character. Furthermore, the three main characters look older than what they seem in the book and a few events didn’t really stick to the novel’s version. That being said, this was only based on the trailer and the film could reveal something different.
Overall Rating: 4/5
By Sam Dawson
Images provided by Philip Reeve/Scholastic