There has been a lot of interest in Mortal Engines since Peter Jackson’s big announcement last week, and a couple of people, astutely noticing the existence of prequels, have asked in what order the books should be tackled. It’s up to you, of course, but I’ve always thought they’re best read in the order they were written. So start with Mortal Engines, then go on to Predator’s Gold, Infernal Devices and A Darkling Plain. That’s the original Mortal Engines quartet, and it covers the final years of the Traction Era, the far-future age of mobile cities which I dreamed up in the 1990s.
Then, if you have an appetite for more, you could go on to read the Fever Crumb trilogy, (Fever Crumb, A Web of Air and Scrivener’s Moon) which goes back to the very beginnings of the Mortal Engines world. It’s a different setting in many ways – there are, for instance, no airships and no mobile cities. I think the books have a slightly different tone, too – the heroes of the Mortal Engines quartet are always zooming across continents and oceans, but Fever Crumb’s adventures all take place in London or in the island city of Mayda, until Scrivener’s Moon, when Municipal Darwinism finally begins to take off and there is a certain amount of charging about on ramshackle motorised fortresses.
And if you still want more… tough, ‘cos that’s all there is*.
But in my latest novels, Railhead and Black Light Express, I’ve tried to take everything I learned about writing and world-building from the Mortal Engines books and tell a new story on the same scale, but set in a very different future world.
(All the books mentioned above should be available from UK booksellers, and there are US editions of everything. The Mortal Engines and Fever Crumb books are published by Scholastic, Railhead and Black Light Express are published by Oxford University Press in the UK and Switch Press in the US. Station Zero, the third book in the Railhead trilogy, will be out next year.)
(*There is actually a 10,000 word World Book Day novella from a few years back, Traction City, about the young Anna Fang, and also a sort of encyclopaedia called The Traction Codex (written with Jeremy Levett) but they are only patchily available – I’ll let you know if that changes!)
I met so many interesting people at Lucca Comics and Games last week that they wouldn’t all fit in one blog post. One of those who I should have mentioned is the fantasy illustrator Paolo Barbieri. Many years ago Paolo did a cover for the Italian edition of Predator’s Gold (then trading as Freya della Lande di Ghiacco), and although Freya looks a bit too skinny to be Freya it’s one of my favourite covers and captures just the sense of pulp adventure I was after.
So it was great to meet Paolo at last, and between signing books for his huge queue of fans he took time to draw this sketch of London on the move in Mortal Engines!
I’m finally able to share some big news for fans of Mortal Engines (and indeed, writers of Mortal Engines). I’m not sure how much I can say about it at the moment, so I’m just going to leave some salient bits of the press release here.
Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh (The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies) are making the feature Mortal Engines, based on the award winning book series of the same name from British author Philip Reeve.
Jackson and Walsh have co-written the screenplay with collaborator Philippa Boyens (The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies). Christian Rivers is attached to direct. Christian has spent the majority of his 25-year career working closely with Jackson, beginning as a Story Board Artist, later moving into supervising visual effects and finally serving as Splinter Unit Director on The Hobbit trilogies. Christian won an Academy Award® for his work on the 2005 film, King Kong (Best Achievement in Visual Effects). He also recently served as second unit director on the remake of Pete’s Dragon. Mortal Engines is his first project as Director.
“Christian is one of my closest collaborators,” says Jackson, “The combination of emotion and jaw-dropping visuals in ‘Mortal Engines’ makes this the perfect movie for his move into feature directing. What Christian intends to do with Philip Reeve’s terrific story is going to result in an original and spectacular movie. I wish I could see it tomorrow!”
“’Mortal Engines’ is one of those stories that was made for the big screen,” says Rivers. “A fantastical, futuristic world that has to be seen to be believed. At its heart though, it’s a beautiful love story and a richly complex character driven adventure. To be the director who gets to bring Philip Reeve’s incredible universe to life is a dream come true.”
“I’m thrilled that Christian, Fran, Philippa and Peter are bringing my book to the screen,” said Philip Reeve. “They’ve created some of the most memorable imaginary worlds in modern cinema, so I can’t wait to experience their vision of the world of ‘Mortal Engines.’”
Just back from Bristol, and my Railhead event at the Old Vic theatre. Oxford University Press sent editorial assistant Debbie Sims along to look after me, and she took some photos during the event, but the lighting wasn’t really up to much. The show mostly consists of me reading from the book, accompanied by videos and slideshows and the music of Lufthansa Terminal AKA Sarah Reeve.
I thought it would be difficult to find enough footage to make videos or slideshows for all the readings, but Jeremy Levett found me lots of footage of Katyusha rockets and other explodey military goings-on to accompany Sarah’s power-chords during the train-vs-train battle sequence. And Justin Hill’s photos of deserted Brighton beaches make very good stand-ins for the deserted beaches of Desdemor.
I also tried learning one of the readings by heart, which seems to work well, so if I do more of these events next year I must try committing some more of the book to memory.
We were in the downstairs studio theatre at the Old Vic (the ‘studio pit’), and very well looked after by the front of house team and by the technician, Jay, who was able to get the slides and videos running without any trouble (always a worry). There were about sixty people in thew audience, which I don’t think was bad at all for a pouring wet November morning. If you were one of them, thank you for coming! I think it went well – here’s an eyewitness account from book blogger Jesse Owen. And here’s another from the North Somerset Teachers’ Book Award blog.
Also in the audience was graphic designer Maria Quintin, who had brought along some great pieces of Mortal Engines work which she did while she was at art college. Here she is in a rather harshly lit corner of the Old Vic’s foyer, holding up one of her beautiful link-cut Guild logos…
Here’s the whole set (Historians, Engineers, Geographers, Merchants)…
And here are Hester Shaw’s identity papers, issued in stroke just before the book begins!
Thanks to Sharon Clark and her team at the Bristol Old Vic for inviting me to be part of the Saturday Stories.