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!
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 except Black Light Express, which will be published there by Switch Press next year. In the UK, the Mortal Engines and Fever Crumb books rate published by Scholastic, Railhead and Black Light Express by Oxford University Press.)
(*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!)