↠ What are Stalkers and the Shrike in Mortal Engines?

Monday, November 19, 2018

What are the Stalker Soldiers in Mortal Engines?

CAUTION: EPIC SPOILERS BELOW FOR BOTH BOOK AND FILM


The Stalkers of Mortal Engines are a kind of 'universal soldier' combatant that can be programmed for warfare and assassination.

Stalkers and their variations play various parts in each of Philip Reeve's Quartet of Mortal Engines, Predator's Gold, Infernal Devices and A Darkling Plain.

What are the origins of the Stalkers?


Stalkers originally were designed as mechanisms for humans to transfer their consciousness from one body to another, thus defeating death. The human mind could literally be saved to hard drive and then transferred into the body of another human.

It was post the 60 Minute War that the technology was adapted to make Stalkers into emotionless monsters to serve at the whim of their masters.

Often referred to as 'Resurrected Men' Stalkers were originally were built by the Nomadic Empires that battled each other across the volcano maze of what was once Europe long before the Traction Cities Era began.

The Nomadic Empires built Stalkers by recovering dead bodies from the battlefields, placing them in laboratories and then bringing them back 'life' by using 'Old Tech' machines that were physically connected to the dead body's nervous system. This practiced continued on unto the Traction City Era.

The bodies were also operated on so internal organs that were no longer necessary. The designers also would graft on a metal carapace to the body. Weapons could be implanted into the body and the use of claws was a common feature.

The best subjects were taller specimens and they looked a scary site with their glowing green eyes that all Stalkers had.

Stalkers are generally considered emotionless automatons, only acting at the will of their Masters.

Once a dead human is resurrected as a Stalker, they have no feelings, display no emotions and they will not have any memory of who they were before they died. Any past memories are jumbled messes and lost glimpses of their former life.

In Mortal Engines, the City of London manufactures its own Stalkers.

The London Guild of Engineers builds new Stalkers from dead prison convicts at their experimental prison in the Deep Gut. These particular Stalkers are not considered as refined as the infamous 'Shrike' due to use of less sophisticated stalker-brains, the devices used in the brains and nerves of Stalkers.

The origins of these Resurrected Men, begin to be explained in the first prequel in the Mortal Engines series, Fever Crumb.

shrike grike mortal engines


What is the Shrike in Mortal Engines?


The 'Shrike' was the first Stalker to be mentioned in the original Mortal Engines book.

His character was under the control of the Mayor of London Traction City, Magnus Chrome. Chrome used the Shrike to find Hester Shaw and Tom Natsworthy and he was ordered to kill them.

At face level this seemed a straight forward plot point however it was later revealed that The Shrike had once looked after Hester in a past life.

Due to his emotionally retarded state, his own goal in life was turn Hester into a Stalker as well, so they could live together forever.

In terms of memory retention, Shrike appears to be the exception to the rule as was able to recall his past life as 'Kit Solent' shortly before his death at the hands of Tom Natsworthy by sword. Kit Solent's tale and how he became a Stalker of the Lazarus Brigade in the prequel novel, Fever Crumb.

In the film Shrike is played by veteran actor Stephan Lang - you may remember him as the evil general in Avatar.

Are Stalkers invulnerable?


Stalkers are heavily protected their armour and but invulnerable to small arms fire and hand-held weaponry.

Due to their 'programming' they do not feel any pain as their nervous systems are rendered. This means they are pretty handy in hand to hand combat as even if their opponent is able to stab them or cause injury, they will not feel it and be able to continue to fight and thus increasing their chances of winning.

In Mortal Engines, Tom Natsworthy did manage to kill the Shrike Stalker with a sword by impaling it through his neck. The Shrike was suffering from some performance issues as he'd actually been run over by a Traction City!

hester and shrike

But there's a reason Stalkers are known as Resurrected Men....

Anna Fang as a Stalker in the sequel novels


In Mortal Engines, Anaa Fang was Tom and Hester's rescuer from the Shrike when he originally caught up with them on Airhaven.

Despite her herorics, Fang was ultimately killed by the dastardly Thaddeus Valentine in a sword fight.

In Predator's Gold it was revealed that a splinter group of the famed Anti Traction League called Green Storm had recovered Fang's body and applied the Stalker Resurrection techniques to it.

Green Storm had intended that the revived Anna Fang would lead them in battle against the remaining Traction Cities.

Eventually the resurrected Fang stalker would take part in many battles and features in Infernal Devices and A Darkling Plain where her character wreaks some pretty spectacular havoc using the ODIN device.

The Shrike concept art from Mortal Engines
Shrike fan art


Extra for Experts (spoilers):
  • Stalkers are sometimes referred to as 'Jaegers'
  • All Stalkers have green glowing eyes
  • Stalker tech can be used on animals such as birds and even whales
  • In some American versions of Mortal Engines Shrike is named 'Grike'.
  • Shrike is named after the bird of the same name.
  • Shrike is actually the narrator of the Mortal Engines books as discovered in the final paragraph of A Darkling Plain. 

Why Stephen Fry should play Professor Pennyroyal in the Mortal Engines sequel

stephen fry gosford park

If you take the Mortal Engines novel as a singular book, it is a grand adventure set literally on the tracks of giant traction citites.

It sets up a world of wonder and opened up a realm of possibilties for future story telling and the success of Mortal Engines led to Philip Reeve being able to write a sequel, Predator's Gold

That book, steps up the action, steps up the pain and steps up the comedy gold with the introduction of Professor Nimrod Pennyroyal. 

On paper, this character is a cliched sterotype that any seasonsed reader can see a mile off. Except Reeve managed to imbue Pennyroyal with such a nagging charm that the character feels wholly real. 

Pennyroyal is a player, a book writer who talls tall tales about his adventures around the world. He makes himself out to be the hero when he's a coward. He makes himself out to be a the man of the world and in a fake-it-till-you-make-it style of living, he's been painting the town red. 

So should the Mortal Engines film be hit a genuine hit and give rise to a sequel, it would seem only natural that the good Professor should have a role to play. 

But who could capture this fellow? 

Enter Stephen Fry. 

Stephen Fry is a marvel. A national treasure in the UK, he's a sucessful writer, actor and all round good guy

And he would be perfect. 

He's got the charm, the confidence and the talent to play the part.

Did you ever see Fry as the dectective in Gosford Park? He was brilliant as the dectective with an ego writing cheques he his ego could never cash. 

If Fry channelled those instincts into Pennyroyal, the character would come to life.

The beauty of this casting suggestion is that Fry has an existing working relationship with Peter Jackon. He featured in two Hobbit films and wrote the script for the as yet unrealised remake of The Dam Busters. 

Peter Jackson loves to surround himself with talent he's used before (see Hugo Weaving as Valentine and all the LOTR films) so if he's fond of a fry up, Stephen is his Professor.

As a fun aside, check out our April Fool's hoax involving Pennyroyal.

TV promo spots for Mortal Engines are so hot, 'they're playing with fire'


Several televisison spots have been released to promote Mortal Engines.

We lead with Valentine suggesting the kids are 'playing with fire'.



This second one features a line change where Hester has a turn:



This third one features Sir Peter Jackson waxing lyrical over the movie:



Personally we feel the marketing should focuss very heavily on Shrike as many punters are starting to see this as a boring old youth love story.


Actor Richard Mills says Mortal Engines is 'epic, vast and very cool'

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Wellington actor Richard Mills had a fair bit of time on the set of Mortal Engines as an extra.

Based on his post to the Mortal Engines is a work of genius Facebook group, it appears the cast and crew have had a screening just for them:

Mills said in a soundbite review: "I was lucky enough to see an advance screening of Mortal Engines today. It was epic, vast and very cool. It does not disappoint. See it in a good cinema, you'll be pleased you did!"

Looks like everything is coming up Milhouse!

Have you seen this woman?

Friday, November 16, 2018
hester shaw wanted poster

Looks like the city of London has an issue with Hester Shaw!

Poster supplied by the official Mortal Engines Facebook page when you take part in the game with the mysterious Antonia Critt.

Philip Reeve - 'The Illustrated World of Mortal Engines'

Wednesday, November 14, 2018
the illustrated world of mortal engines

As a tie-in of sorts to the Mortal Engines movie, author Philip Reeve has published 'The Illustrated World of Mortal Engines'.

This work is to a super-dooper rework of The Traction Codex which was published some years ago as an e-book with collaborator Jeremy Levett. Levett is back again for this more comprehensive exploration of the world of traction cities. 

Reeve said of the work:

"With the Mortal Engines movie looming, it seemed a good opportunity to revise and expand the old Mortal Engines Codex, which had a very patchy e-book release a few years ago.

Jeremy Levett knows far more about history and technology than I ever will, and he’s come up with an impressively plausible account of the centuries which separate the Fever Crumb books from the beginning of Mortal Engines, as well as lots of extra details about the cities, airships and characters who inhabit the books. 

There are glimpses of what the Traction era means for Australia, South America, and other bits of the world my stories never managed to encompass.

The book features the artwork of many well-known concept art designers including Ian McQue who recently redid all the covers for the original book series, David Wyatt and Amir Zand.

Jeremy Levett did an Ask Me Anything Session on Reddit about the guide.

it's important to note this work expands on the canon of the novels and does not necessarily tie into the movie version of the original book.

Here are some images from the book:

David Wyatt's version of Air Haven:

david whyatt airhaven concept art

Amir Zand's effort at a predator city:

amir zand predator city




The artwork above is some concept work that Ian did when he was inspired by the Mortal Engines book AND seemingly before he had a working relationship with Philip Reeve! I like how life works out!

Order your copy from Amazon now!

Moving Cities featurette reveals Magnus Chrome

Tuesday, November 13, 2018
magnus chrome mayor london

One month to go till the release of Mortal Engines and the featurettes are popping up like Pokemon.

Gotta catch 'em all so here's the Moving Cities featurette, with a first look at Magnus Chrome, the mayor of London.

Chrome is played by Patrick Malahide.



"Run it down!"
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