Original Release Date: May 4, 2009
Natural disasters, civilization-searing wars, a tumult of regime changes, and a host of other catastrophes have resulted in the loss of much of mankind’s technical knowledge. With glaciers slowly moving south, what was once Great Britain is now a host of nomadic tribes, subsisting on plunder as they move from place to place in land barges coupled together from recycled machines of the past.
The people of London (perhaps the greatest remnant of what once was), however, have managed to recreate something of the old world. Salvaging, studying, sometimes reinvigorating, but never reproducing the ancient technologies that lie beneath their streets – computers, engines, ‘lectric lamps, scraps of plastics – they are entirely post-pre-industrial. In the midst of it all, lives young Fever, an orphan (or so she’s told). Brought up by the very rational old engineer, Dr. Crumb, beautiful young Fever shaves her head (hair is non-necessary), spurns emotion, and is always, always reasonable – whatever the situation. After all, it is up to her to prove to the stoic Order of Engineers that female minds are capable of rational thought.
But, when archaeologist Kit Solent appears, requesting her help (an honor she accepts with what a non-rational mind might call “excitement”), more than petty emotions are dredged up: Fever begins to recall an entire existence that she knows is not her own – one filled with grisly experiments; a strangely beautiful, oddly familiar face; perfumes; genetic anomalies; and scenes from London’s most recent regime change, the bloody Skinner riots. Before she knows it, Fever is herself branded a traitor in a battle of old against new, humans and Skinners vs. genetically anomalous Scriven (self-dubbed “homo superior”), and must work to unlock the secrets lodged inside her head – or risk losing herself entirely to someone else’s design.
In keeping with the style of his Carnegie Medal-winning Here Lies Arthur, Reeve delivers a strikingly dark and different, yet enveloping and fully realized world in this prequel to his Mortal Engines Quartet. Expertly repurposing current-day pop culture with a sly and satiric humor (“That’s a load of blog,” shouted Ted Swiney…”Cheesers Crice!”), Reeve fuses signature steampunk (technomancers who create Stalker armies of ‘lectric– and wirework-brained corpses, gingerbread man-type armies made of paper, land barges and fuel-guzzling mono-wheeled vehicles), with what author Scott Westerfeld calls “old-fashioned derring-do,” to create a sometimes-light, sometimes-heavy, always fast-paced tale full of as many twists and turns as the Victorianesque London streets through which it runs.
Suitable for a younger audience (9-12), this book will also appeal to older steampunk, action-adventure, and perhaps even historical fiction/historical scifi fans. A fully-realized, strong female protagonist, Fever’s strength and resourcefulness, coupled with the story’s shying away from the usual romantic angle and touch of raucous battles, will make it a satisfying read for boys and girls alike.
Sequel A Web of Air coming October 1, 2011.