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<anon I1="BLANK" I2="BLANK">Mortal Engines Chapter One The Hunting Ground It was a dark, blustery afternoon in spring, and the city of London was chasing a small mining town across the dried-out bed of the old North Sea. In happier times, London would never have bothered with such feeble prey. The great Traction City had once spent its days hunting far bigger towns than this, ranging north as far as the edge of the Ice Wastes and south to the shores of the Mediterranean. But lately prey of any kind had started to grow scarce, and some of the larger cities had begun to look hungrily at London. For ten years now it had been hiding from them, skulking in a damp, mountainous western district that the Guild of Historians said had once been the island of Britain. For ten years it had eaten nothing but tiny farming towns and static settlements in those wet hills. Now, at last, the Lord Mayor had decided that the time was right to take his city back over the land bridge into the Great Hunting Ground. It was barely halfway across when the lookouts on the high watchtowers spied the mining town, gnawing at the salt flats twenty miles ahead. To the people of London it seemed like a sign from the gods, and even the Lord Mayor (who didn't believe in gods or signs) thought it was a good beginning to the journey east, and issued the order to give chase. The mining town saw the danger and turned tail, but already the huge caterpillar tracks under London were starting to roll faster and faster. Soon the city was lumbering in hot pursuit, a moving mountain of metal that rose in seven tiers like the layers of a wedding cake, the lower levels wreathed in engine smoke, the villas of the rich gleaming white on the higher decks, and above it all the cross on top of St. Paul's Cathedral glinting gold, two thousand feet above the ruined earth. Tom was cleaning the exhibits in the London Museum's Natural History section when it started. He felt the telltale tremor in the metal floor, and looked up to find the model whales and dolphins that hung from the gallery roof swinging on their cables with soft creaking sounds. He wasn't alarmed. He had lived in London for all of his fifteen years, and he was used to its movements. He knew that the city was changing course and putting on speed. A prickle of excitement ran through him, the ancient thrill of the hunt that all Londoners shared. There must be prey in sight! Dropping his brushes and dusters, he pressed his hand to the wall, sensing the vibrations that came rippling up from the huge engine rooms down in the Gut. Yes, there it was-the deep throb of the auxiliary motors cutting in, boom, boom, boom, like a big drum beating inside his bones. The door at the far end of the gallery slammed open and Chudleigh Pomeroy came storming in, his toupee askew and his round face red with indignation. "What in the name of Quirke . . . ?" he blustered, gawking at the gyrating whales, and the stuffed birds jigging and twitching in their cases as if they were shaking off their long captivity and getting ready to take wing again. "Apprentice Natsworthy! What's going on here?" "It's a chase, sir," said Tom, wondering how the Deputy Head of the Guild of Historians had managed to live aboard London for so long and still not recognize its heartbeat. "It must be something good," he explained. "They've brought all the auxiliaries on line. That hasn't happened for ages. Maybe London's luck has turned!" "Pah!" snorted Pomeroy, wincing as the glass in the display cases started to whine and shiver in sympathy with the beat of the engines. Above his head the biggest of the models-a thing called a blue whale that had become extinct thousands of years ago-was jerking back and forth on its hawsers like a plank swing. "That's as may be, Natsworthy," he said. "I just wish the Guild of Engineers would fit some decent shock absorbers in this building. Some of these specimens are very delicate. It won't do. It won't do at all." He tugged a stained handkerchief out of the folds of his long black robes and dabbed his face with it. "Please, sir," asked Tom, "could I run down to the observation platforms and watch the chase, just for half an hour? It's been years since there was a really good one." Pomeroy looked shocked. "Certainly not, Apprentice! Look at all the dust that this wretched chase is shaking down! All the exhibits will have to be cleaned again and checked for damage." "Oh, but that's not fair!" cried Tom. "I've just dusted this whole gallery!" He knew at once that he had made a mistake. Old Chudleigh Pomeroy wasn't bad as Guildsmen went, but he didn't like being answered back by a mere Third Class Apprentice. He drew himself up to his full height (which was only slightly more than his full width) and frowned so sternly that his Guildmark almost vanished between his bushy eyebrows. "Life isn't fair, Natsworthy," he boomed. "Any more cheek from you and you'll be on Gutduty as soon as this chase is over!" Of all the horrible chores a Third Class Apprentice had to perform, Gutduty was the one Tom hated most. He quickly shut up, staring meekly down at the beautifully buffed toes of the Chief Curator's boots. "You were told to work in this department until seven o'clock, and you will work until seven o'clock," Pomeroy went on. "Meanwhile, I shall consult the other curators about this dreadful, dreadful shaking. . . ." He hurried off, still muttering. Tom watched him go, then picked up his gear and went miserably back to work. Usually he didn't mind cleaning, especially not in this gallery, with its amiable, moth-eaten animals and the blue whale smiling its big blue smile. If he grew bored, he simply took refuge in a daydream, in which he was a hero who rescued beautiful girls from air pirates, saved London from the Anti-Traction League, and lived happily ever after. But how could he daydream, with the rest of the city enjoying the first proper chase for ages? Mortal Engines . Copyright © by Philip Reeve. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.</anon>
Reviews provided by Syndetics
Publishers Weekly Review
In a dystopian future landscape, cities have uprooted themselves and donned wheels, consuming each other's resources. "Reeve's prose is sweeping and cinematic," PW said in a starred review. "He deftly weaves in social commentary on the perils of both war and consumerism." Ages 12-up. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
School Library Journal Review
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 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Gr. 7-10. As the story opens, the great Traction City of London is chasing a small town. When one city takes over another, it processes all reusable materials to create power to run the motorized wheels that enable the city to travel over the land. London's mayor has bigger plans than the domination of a small town, plans involving the use of the weapon that laid waste to Earth millennia earlier. Several young people endeavor to stop the carnage--among them, Tom, an apprentice at the London Museum; a young woman who tries to kill the museum's head historian; the historian's daughter, Katherine; and an apprentice in the Guild of Engineers. The pace of the violence-filled story is frenetic, the sense of helplessness is palpable, and not all the young people survive. A page-turner, this adventure in a city-eat-city world will have readers eagerly suspending disbelief to follow the twists and turns of the imaginative plot. --Sally Estes Copyright 2003 Booklist
Horn Book Review
(Middle School, High School) In the distant future, long after the Sixty Minute War that destroyed civi-lization, London has become a ""Traction City,"" a vast wheeled mountain of metal that hunts down and ""eats"" other cities for raw materials. Down in the city's ""gut"" after one such kill, Apprentice Historian Tom Natsworthy saves the life of his hero, Head Historian Valentine, when Valentine is attacked by a girl from the captured city -- a girl, Hester Shaw, whose face is disfigured by a horrible scar. To Tom's shock, Valentine repays Tom for saving his life by shoving him down a waste chute after the escaped would-be assassin. Thus a gripping opening sequence culminating in Hester and Tom's narrowly surviving expulsion from the city gives way to a high-stakes odyssey of disillusionment. Hester tells Tom how Valentine killed her parents and left her for dead, and Tom reluctantly joins her on her quest for vengeance across the Hunting Ground, engaging with slavers, pirates, and an Anti-Traction aviatrix who teaches him to question the city-eat-city doctrine of ""municipal Darwinism."" Back in London, Valentine's daughter Katherine is making some disillusioning inquiries of her own with the help of Apprentice Engineer Bevis Pod. Who was the scarred girl, Hester Shaw? What happened to Hester's mother, the archaeologist who unearthed a doomsday weapon called MEDUSA, lately retrieved by Valentine? The book's tone of high adventure and danger; the grimy yet fantastical post-apocalyptic setting; the narrow escapes, deepening loyalties, and not-infrequent bitter losses -- all keep readers' attention riveted. Reeve brings all guns to bear in the elegiac confrontation at the climax, sending several characters to their deaths in a blaze of glory and the survivors to a sobering victory. Reeve will soon be the go-to man for imagination, excitement, and crowd-pleasing action; watch for more Hungry City Chronicles from this Smarties Book Prize winner. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Book Review
Reeve thinks big in this British prizewinner, envisioning a distant future in which immense mobile cities roar over continent-sized wastelands, preying on each other. Thanks to ruthless scavenger Thaddeus Valentine, London has acquired an ancient energy weapon powerful enough to overwhelm the well-defended but stationary cities of former Asia. To lowly apprentice Historian Tom Natsworthy, Valentine is a hero; Tom begins to find out differently after meeting Hester Shaw, a savagely mutilated young woman who saw Valentine murder her parents for the device. Ejected from the city as it barrels eastward, Tom and Hester encounter pirates and unexpected allies, battle an ancient cyborg warrior, and get an eye-opening look at their diverse world as they struggle to catch up. Running up the body count to staggering dimensions, the author propels his protagonists to a cataclysmic climax, folding in both instances of casual, inhuman brutality and satiric comments about "urban Darwinism." With the exception of that cyborg, the characters and societies are as uncomplicated here as the moral issues; readers who enjoy violent, titanic clashes between good and evil will be absorbed from beginning to end. First of a projected trilogy. (Fiction. 12-15) Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.