Mortal Engines Quartet
The Mortal Engines Quartet (known as the Hungry Cities Chronicles in the USA) is a series of books by British author Philip Reeve set in an apocalyptic far future, after a global war known as the Sixty Minute War. Although not part of the main series, the short story "Urbivore", written by Reeve some years earlier, shares many of the main elements with the series as it was ultimately conceieved. A possible reference to this fact is made in Predator's Gold, when one of the characters refers to Arkangel as a "lumbering urbivore."
- Mortal Engines: Originally written as a stand-alone novel, Mortal Engines introduces the characters of Thomas "Tom" Natsworthy, a citizen of London, and Hester Shaw, a scavenger. The novel focuses on the traction city of London, which has uncovered an energy weapon called MEDUSA from the Sixty Minute War.
- Predator's Gold: Set two years after Mortal Engines, Predator's Gold is more of a direct sequel to the original than the two books that follow, and features the same main characters. The plot takes place around the traction city of Anchorage, which is making an exodus across the ice of the north Atlantic in an effort to reach the "dead continent" of North America.
- Infernal Devices: The next book expands the range of characters, with the introduction of the Aleutian engineer Oenone Zero and the daughter of Tom and Hester, Wren as viewpoint characters. Infernal Devices takes place during a drawn out war between the Green Storm, a revolutionary Anti-Tractionist movement and the Traktionstadts, an alliance of German traction cities formed in response. Much of the plot takes place on the raft-city of Brighton.
- A Darkling Plain: In the final book, Oenone Zero, now named Naga ceases to be a viewpoint character, and becomes a background character. She is replaced by Theo Ngoni, the African aviator introduced in Infernal Devices. The book takes place during a fragile truce between the Traktionstadtsgesellschaft and the Green Storm, and the efforts of the characters to bring about a lasting peace.
World of Mortal Engines
Sixty Minute War
The Sixty Minute War is a global conflict (though damage seemed to have been worse on the North American continent) whose details are left vague. It is known that a power called the "American Empire" (this is possibly an in-universe historical mistake, and it refers to the United States) was involved, and it is implied that a power called "Greater China" was as well. Very little other information is known, except that both energy weapons and orbital weapons were used. Virtually all old technology was lost during the war, and the resulting tectonic instabilities lead to the rise of traction cities. Occasionally, a weapon from the war is revealled to have survived, such as MEDUSA (acronym unknown) in Mortal Engines, and ODIN (Orbital Defence INitiative) in Infernal Devices and A Darkling Plain.
The Anti-Traction League was formed by the nation of Shan Guo for mutual defence against hungry cities. The western frontier of the League was marked by the Shield-Wall, Batmunkh Gompa, a gap in the mountains barricaded by a huge steel wall and city. Formerly, the African statics in the south were members of the League, but they withdrew following the military coup by the Green Storm.
The Green Storm is a radical and extremist anti-tractionist group that seizes power in the Anti-Traction League. It turns the League into a totalitarian control state, restricting all freedoms and focussing on arms production for a war against the cities. The rise of the Green Storm helped form together the Traktionstadtsgesellschaft to defend Municipal Darwinism from the radical Storm. The Green Storm is portrayed as an Eastern totalitarian state, much like China under communist rule. A reference to this is made when Oenone Zero mentions that she used to sing "The East is Green" at school, referring to the de facto Chinese national anthem "The East is Red." The Green Storm's revolutionary military focus means that its economy suffers, and when General Naga takes power, he struggles to repair the damage caused by years of radical government. Ultimately, the Storm is dissolved and replaced with the New Anti-Traction League. The Storm frequently used airships, in particuarly the Fox Spirit fighter-bomber.
The Traktionstadtsgesellschaft or Traktionstadts, German for "Traction Town Society" is an alliance of German-speaking Traction cities, formed to oppose the Green Storm. The main fighter and bomber airship used is the Super-Gnat.
Stalkers are corpses, antimated by means of electronic implants. The original technology, designed to preserve the minds of rulers, was developed not long after the Sixty Minute War, but the civilization was destroyed in the Black Centuries. The ressurected Anna Fang is powered by a Stalker-brain from this era. Later, a civilization called the "Nomad Empires" pick up a crude version of the technology, and use to to create undead soldiers. The Stalker Shrike is an artefact from this era. Later, London starts to develop undead soldiers along the lines of the Nomad Empire's Stalkers. These are copied and refined by the Green Storm, who make extensive use of them as shock troops. By the far future epilogue "Shrike in the World to Come", Stalkers are unknown, except as stories, leaving Shrike as the only surviving relic of the technology.
Reeve frequently makes puns or jokes that are unapparent to the characters, but are noticeable to the reader. For example:
- The god of Municipal Darwinism is referred to as "The Thatcher" a reference to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
- A plane in A Darkling Plain is called the Group Captain Mandrake, a reference to Group Captain Lionel Mandrake from the Peter Sellers film Doctor Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.
- The town of Tunbridge Wells has become "Tunbridge Wheels" in the age of moving cities.
- Anna Fang refers to "a bat out of Hull", referring to the expression "a bat out of Hell" and the city of Kingston-upon-Hull, better known as "Hull".
- The Disney cartoon characters of Pluto and Mickey are referred to as "animal-headed gods of North America".
- A propaganda song of the Green Storm is "The East is Green"; a reference to the Chinese national anthem "The East is Red".