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Friday, June 30, 2017

What is the best order to read the Mortal Engines novels?


What Star Wars film did you see first?

Was it The Phantom Menace or A New Hope?

For the many it was Star Wars IV, V and IV in that order and then years later the prequels came out and we learned how Anakin became Darth Vader.

If you watch the prequels first you miss out on the epic twist that happens in Empire Strikes Back when you learn of Luke's true parentage.

And that's the issue with the reading order of the 7 Mortal Engine novels.

We are talking about Stalker Shrike here and a couple of other plot point surprises.

If you read the prequel series you get the full story of Shrike and how he came to be the Shrike. As you read on to the original novels, there's no big mystery, no awe as you first encounter him with Tom, knives out wanting to do nothing but kill....HESTEERRR SHAWWWWW!

But if you've read the prequels, you know exactly who this abomination is before he even takes his first step towards Tom and that kind of ruins the mystique.

Think of the first time you saw the Star Wars scene when Vader boards the Tantive IV (Leia's ship). If you knew him as the whiny pod racing kid from The Phantom Menace, the effect of his entrance would not have been the same.

But, just as there is with Star Wars, there's a kind of cheat you can do which is similar to the popular Machete Order that some Star War fans recommend.

In terms of Star Wars, it's often suggested that you watch A New Hope and then Empire so that you can enjoy the twist. You can then read the prequels and get the full back story, and then hop back to Return of the Jedi and go from there.

And so you can with Mortal Engines.

Read that first novel first so that you get the main story, exposure to the concepts such as Municipal Darwinism and that you meet the Shrike.

You can then turn the pages of the prequels starting with Reeve's Fever Crumb and then on to A Web of Air and the most excellent Scrivener's Moon.

Once you've knocked those bastards off, you can read the three books that follow Mortal Engines. And they are damn good reads with A Darkling Plain proving an excellent and satisfying end to the saga.

But what do we know?

What is Philip Reeve's take on the reading order of his own novels?

He's actually been asked this before and he's on record as saying:

"It’s up to you, of course, but I’ve always thought they’re best read in the order they were written."

And despite what we have suggested, that's not a bad way to go.

Here's why.

The thing about Peter Reeve is he became a better author as he went on with the Mortal Engines series. As he progressed from one book to the next his stories seemed to flow better and form a more cognizant whole. I personally enjoyed the the last two novels compared to the first. That said, those novels were 'standing on the shoulders of giants'.

But Reeve's also gives a hint of caution about the prequels:

"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."

The choice, dear reader, is clearly yours.

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