Friday, March 9, 2012

When Moving Cities Were Born

I felt such anticipatory pleasure as I settled in for a chance to learn more about Philip Reeve’s far-in-the-future Earth so well described in The Hungry City Chronicles or, as they are known in England, the Mortal Engines Quartet. Mortal Engines, the first of the series, introduced me to the steampunk wonders of cities that rumbled across the earth, consuming villages, towns and other cities (along with every living thing) in their quest to stay alive and moving.

Fever Crumb is a prequel to Mortal Engines, set in Reeve’s England in a time far removed from the wonders of the ancients (us), a time where scavenging is all that’s left. Fever, the title character, is the adopted daughter of an engineer and in training for that profession. She is a most rational girl (her head is shaved because fussing with a hairstyle is irrational to an Engineer) who is sorely tested when the secrets of her past begin to resurface and she finds herself in the middle of a dangerous search for ancient technology. When the renegade marauders of The Movement (in the very first moving city) recruit her to their cause as they reach the outer parts of what is left of London after the storms, floods and scavengers, I found myself committed to this book until it was finished.

The characters in Reeve’s book are well-developed and fascinating but it is the description of future London that captivated my imagination. Marshes, swamps, ruins of ancient technology from our time and the almost steampunk quality of future technology built on the ruins of our world.

The little details that Reeve throws in both enhance the regressed future setting as well as making the book pretty darned funny. Fever is nearly run over by a group of religious practitioners wearing “robes and pointed hats… chanting the name of some old-world prophet, ‘Hari, Hari! Hari Potter!‘” Little touches like B@ttersea, a pub called the Blogger’s Arms, and the use of ‘blog’ and ‘blogger’ as a swear word on par with ‘bugger’ are graceful additions to the place and time that barely remembers our time.

Thank goodness, the next book in the chronicles, A Web of Air, is already on our shelves so that I can again immerse myself in the future Earth of Reeve’s fabulous imagination.

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