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A Reader of Fictions: City of Delusion - Muse

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

City of Delusion - Muse

Mortal Engines
The Hungry City Chronicles, Book 1

Author: Philip Reeve
Genre: science fiction, young adult
Pages: 310

Brief Summary:
In a far distant future, the planet Earth is nearly unrecognizable. Much of the world operates under a philosophy known as municipal darwinism. At some point, a technology was devised whereby towns, suburbs or entire cities can move around, which is referred to as traction. These cities roam, looking for smaller cities to swallow up (certainly an interesting metaphor of sorts for modernity). There are forces opposed to this system, known as the Anti-Traction League, who live much more like humans today do.

Tom, an apprentice with the historians, and a low level one at that, skips work to see London capture its first prey in quite a long time; the consequences of this decision propel him into an adventure he never could have imagined. His punishment is to do some work down in the Gut, where the town London just swallowed up is being dismantled. Down there, he finds his hero, Valentine and his beautiful daughter Katherine. Tom falls in love at first sight with Katherine and even manages to save his Valentine from an assassination attempt by a girl with a badly scarred face. The girl runs in an attempt to escape, but he chases her down and learns just enough information to be dangerous to be left alive. Suddenly, he is on the run with this odd, surly girl and unsure of everything he always knew to be true.

Mortal Engines, though I was not aware beforehand, is actually a dystopian novel. In fact, there are a couple of disparate dystopian levels to the book. On the one hand, there are the many references to the downfall of America, which, unsurprisingly, sought to take everyone else with it through the use of insanely stupid and dangerous weapons. The way the world worked back then all changed with something called the Sixty Minutes War (how long does war really need to last with some of the weapons people are now capable of making?).

In addition to the apocalyptic nature of that downfall of one set of civilizations, the era of traction cities is not doing so well. Prey is running low and the mayor of London has all sorts of big, bad ideas. The Mayor, Crome, is a Machiavellian figure who has a major personality cult in effect and does absolutely terrible things to any people deemed unimportant to society.

Despite this depressing setting, the book is actually quite funny in a lot of parts. The humor is well done (although I could have done without some of the scatalogical scenes). One really awesome element was reading about the Museum, which, of course, contained items from the life we live today (Very prominent is the skeleton of a blue whale). The book definitely gets more depressing toward the end and (warning!) some characters do not survive.

Recommended! My favorite thing about this book: the last two sentences (although I also appreciate that the ugly girl is not judged solely by her appearance). I think they set the tone and conclude the first novel in the series perfectly. I will not repeat them here, because you should go read the book and find out for yourself!

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