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Mortal Engines


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Like the moving cities it depicts, Reeve's debut novel is a staggering feat of engineering, a brilliant construction that offers new wonders at every turn. In the Europe of the future, the great cities have uprooted themselves from the Earth and donned wheels; roving the Hunting Ground that was once Europe, cities literally devour one another as part of a new social construct called Municipal Darwinism. The mighty city of London, in danger of running out of "prey," looks toward the east, where an enormous wall protects the static cities of the Anti-Traction League-the "heretics" who have chosen the barbaric practice of living on the bare earth. But London's mad Lord Mayor develops a plan to get through the wall: he resurrects a vicious and ancient technology, a post-20th-century update of the nuclear bomb, all the more horrible with time and refinement, and mounts it in the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral. Against this wildly original backdrop plays the story of Tom Natsworthy, a young Apprentice Historian who helps mine the museum vaults of the juggernaut London. Tom becomes embroiled with his idol, the elder Historian Valentine, and also with the scarred girl Hester who owes Valentine a debt of vengeance. Reeve's prose is sweeping and cinematic, his ideas bold and effortless; he deftly weaves in social commentary on the perils of both war and consumerism, and presents the calamities that can result from poverty and extreme wealth occupying the same quarters. Ages 12-up. (Nov.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Gr 6 Up-This exciting and visually descriptive novel is set in the distant future, years after the Sixty Minute War resulted in many deaths and the loss of technological knowledge. Most people dwell in Traction Cities, metropolises built in tiers like wedding cakes that move across the ground on huge caterpillar tracks, chasing and absorbing smaller locales in a practice known as Municipal Darwinism. Scavengers roam the Earth's surface searching for ancient artifacts. Tom, a 15-year-old orphan who works at the London Museum, idolizes Valentine, a scavenger turned Head Historian. One night he saves his hero from being stabbed by a horribly disfigured girl who accuses the man of killing her parents. While escaping, Hester "falls" off London and Valentine deliberately pushes Tom after her. After surviving their fall, the two have many death-defying adventures as they attempt to make their way back to London. Meanwhile, Valentine's daughter discovers that her father is working with London's Lord Mayor to resurrect an ancient atomic weapon capable of mass destruction and tries to put things right. The story is believable and most of the characters are fully realized, particularly vengeful Hester and Grike, a lonely Borg-like stalker. The book has an ambience similar to that of Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy (Knopf). The first in a series, this action-packed adventure story presents moral questions about the use of atomic weapons.-Sharon Rawlins, Piscataway Public Library, NJ Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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