You’ve probably heard of survival of the fittest and the theory that “might makes right”. Now think about how these concepts would play out, not in the animal world, or even the social hierarchy, but with entire cities, put on wheels and capable of moving from place to place at the whim of their citizens – and equally capable of “eating” other cities. Mortal Engines the first in the Hungry City Chronicles by English author Phillip Reeve, imagines just such a world. Tom, a fifteen-year-old Apprentice Historian lives in – or rather on– London in a future world where the cities are in a constant battle for resources as they roll along. When a mysterious and disfigured girl attempts to murder his hero, he is pushed off of the city, landing, to his horror, on the ground. Tom’s desperate attempts to catch up with his beloved city lead him to unlikely alliances and give him a new perspective on both “Municipal Darwinism” and the men he has regarded as heroes for his entire life.
The worldbuilding in this science fiction novel is fantastic. It is easy to immerse oneself in the world of moving cities, flying airships, and warring factions between both the moving cities and the Anti-Traction League and between the cities themselves. The characters are three-dimensional, making choices both good and bad, and feeling the repercussions of their actions in ways both predictable and entirely unexpected.
I would recommend this book to fans of science fiction, steampunk, Kenneth Oppel’s Airborn series.