Book Review: Mortal Engines

Last night I finished the book Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve. I never heard of the book until I saw the teaser trailer for the forthcoming film adaptation. The trailer is visually fascinating and left me curious about what was going on in that brief, yet enthralling, scene.

I certainly encourage you to watch the trailer. Peter Jackson is producing and his partner on the Lord of the Rings films, Fran Walsh, is one of the writers. I’m quite optimistic about the film. The book on the other hand was less enticing.

For starters, this is certainly young adult fiction. That’s not a knock against it, rather setting expectations. The story itself is rather interesting and I think there is good material for a film. The storytelling itself was not what I’d have hoped. For one the reasoning for these traction cities, large vehicular structures holding the likes of London and other cities, was not sold well. Even worse is the idea of an Anti-Traction League that wanted to put an end to traction cities. These weren’t bad, but the reasoning behind it all was lackluster. I imagine this maybe a commonality with YA, accept the exposition.

Though I have to drop another gripe that seems to exist in the YA fiction I have read. That is the shallowness of the characters. It’s not that I want more details about the characters, they are just quite obtuse. Were it not for the action and pace of the adventure, the characters would have had me stop reading the book.

But this gets to what I love about this book, it gets action. The exploration and adventure of these characters experience is the driving force behind this story. The climax only quickens the pace with a somber and satisfactory conclusion. Being that this is the first book in a series, however, I’m not intrigued enough to see what happens next for these characters.

Modern Engines is a worthwhile story and I can see the appeal for a middle school audience. I’m glad I took the time to read it and I was certainly entertained. I look forward to see what the film has in store.