Pop Culture and other references that Philip Reeve made in the Mortal Engines series

Sunday, April 30, 2017
cultural references made in Mortal Engines

References to pop culture, rock and roll, real world history and other curious accounts found in Mortal Engines book series.

Philip Reeve makes some pretty cool references to our world in his world of the Mortal Engines. Taking a leaf from our modern times, Reeves inserts a whole lot of  references to pop culture, rock and roll, real world history and other curious people and places.

Often he makes puns and plays on words with song titles and names things for place names or animals. The Shrike is named after a bird for example.

It's amusing as there wouldn't be too many 14 year olds who reading the book today who would know that the 'My Shirona' airship was a very popular hit known as 'My Sharona' by a band called The Knack!

Here's a list of such references we've found in Mortal Engines.

We've probably missed a boat load... I actually started this list as I could have sworn he made a Beatles reference but I've yet to find it...

The real question is how many of these will make it into the movie?

This post will be a work in progress. I've probably missed many things!

The first novel, Mortal Engines


  • Let's start with the name of the novel. "Mortal Engines' is a reference to Shakespeare's Othello. It's about how the life of a man or woman obviously has its limits. It also ties into the novel's theme of Municipal Darwinism
  • Here's the full My Sharona reference "Now boarding at strut 7, My Shirona out bound for Arkangel". My Sharona was the biggest (and some might say only) hit for the band 'The Knack'. Indeed it was the biggest hit of 1979 around the world, when Philip Reeve was 13 years old (Page 95).
  • The name of the MEDUSA weapon is a reference to the famous Gorgon with the stony gaze which if anyone stared into it, they would be immediately turned to stone.
  • Disney's Mickey Mouse and Pluto are referred to as being some kind of venerated deity where statues are made of the mouse in his honour. It's a nice nod to the argument that commercialism is the real god in this modern era (Page 7).
  • The language Airsperanto is a playful reference to the 'made up' or constructed language known as Esperanto (page 179).
  • Valentine's '13th Floor Elevator' airship is a most likely a reference to the American band 'The 13th Floor Elevators' who were a popular psychedelic group in the late 1960s. Have a listen to this trippy song. Reminds me of The Troggs crossed with The Animals..... (Page 16)
  • Hester's mother is named Pandora. Pandora's Box is a tale from Greek mythology where all the evils of the world were kept in the box. When such box is opened, those evil's escape and wreak havoc. By using, the name Reeve is suggesting that the use of the MEDUSA weapon spells trouble for all involved. It's a moment of foreshadowing.
  • Doctor Twix, a researcher in the Guild of Engineers, is probably so named for the chocolate bar. 
  • The town known as "Dunroamin'" is a handy reference to houses that people often call when they retire. As in, they are done roaming. Like traction cities roam. 
  • Pete's Eats is a famous cafe in Wales where the mountaineering community frequent (page 154).
  • At page 155, Katherine notes a menu is offering a burger called a 'Happy Meal'. Sounds like the great Golden Arches of MacDonalds survived the 60 Minute War.
  • "Sea of Khazak" probably comes from the country Kazakhstan which is next to the Caspian Sea.
  • Lady of 'High Heavens' is an ironic name as Chudleigh Pomery's wife was certainly no angel. High Heavens is oft referred to as s place where angels live (Page 95).
  • At page 89, Motoropolis is a play on Metropolis in that it's a moving city. It's probably NOT a reference to Superman.
  • Beefeaters are the soldiers who act as the Mayor Chrome's personal body. In our more modern times, the 'Yeomen Warders of Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London', known around the world as Beefeaters, are the official guardians of, yes you guessed it, The Tower of London in the UK. 
  • As Valentine leaves the city of London, as part of the pomp 'Rule Londinium' is played. It is a play on Rule Britannia. It is a famous patriotic British song so it makes sense in the context that London City was celebrating it's hero Valentine and wishing him well on his adventure...
  • While a young lad in the Guild Orphanage, Tom would pretend to be a Stalker and yell out things like "I-AM-A-STAL-KER!EX-TER-MIN-ATE!"  This is a reference to Doctor Who's Daleks who famously ran around telling anyone who would listen they were going to exterminate them!
  • Anna Fang uses the expression 'bat out of Hull' which is a playing on the expression like a 'bat out of hell' - an expression made famous in Meat Loaf's Bat Out of Hell album.
  • Anna Fang is also based on Han Solo from Star Wars


Predator's Gold 

The second in the series and sets up a new adventure for Tom and Hester. 
  • Professor Pennyroyal tells the tale of an adventure aboard a ship called the Allan Quartermain. Quartermain was the main character of a series of novels where Quartermain was an adventurer who found King Solomon's mines. Sharon Stone was in the movie. It's an allusion of sorts to what Penny Royal himself has claimed to be - an adventurer, finding strange new lands having thrilling adventures along the way. Page 30.
  • Machine Wash Only and Allow Twelve Days for Delivery were names of people Pennyroyal supposedly met. They are of course lines commonly found on washing instruction tags and are standard delivery terms respectively. Page 32.
  • We all know what 'Zip Code' stands for right?
  • The traction city of Wolverinehampton is a playful reference to Wolverhampton, a city and metropolitan borough found in the West Midlands of England.
  • Phillip Reeve refers to 'Poskitt' as a god. He's actually referring to Kjartan Poskitt.  Reeve has illustrated his books previously.
  • On page 157 an airship is referred to as being named Smaug. This is, of course, the name of the dragon from JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit. 
  • The Lost Boys that work for Uncle are so named from Peter Pan's Lost Boys.
  • We suspect the character Windolene Pye's name comes from the popular window cleaning product.
  • The airship named Graculus is probably named for the bird. 


Infernal Devices


Pop culture references worth mentioning are few and far between in this third novel of the series.
  • Reeve's hilariously calls an airship, 'Visible Panty Line'. Such things are not generally not welcomed by fashion conscious women.
  • Another airship was called the Itsy Witsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka-Dot Yellow Machiney which is a reference to the song about the bikini of the same description. 
  • A royal reference and pun are made to Lady Diana, Princess of Wales when Reeves mentions a song called Harpoon Aria from an opera called Diana, Princess of Whales. 
  • The Lost Boys and their belief in "Uncle Knows Best" is a reference to George Orwell's 1984 novel where 'Big Brother knows best'. Side note - Philip Reeve's confirmed for us that the first line of the original Mortal Engines novel was inspired by 1984.
  • Penny Royal's Airborne Park is called Cloud 9. Cloud Nine is often considered to be a happy state of emotion or experience of euphoria or a magical place. 
  • Nabisco Shkin's 'Shkin Corporation' is a play on words in the sense that they sell slaves i.e. they deal in human skin. 
  • The line " "..and wasn’t that the great P. P. Bellman, author of atheistic pop-up books for the trendy toddler??" is a reference to the Northern Lights novelist Phillip Pullman. 

A Darkling Plain


  • The title 'A Darkling' Plain is a reference to the poem Dover Beach.
  • The name of Ford Anglia must be a nod to the classic car made by Ford
  • At page 289 the clerk of the front desk of the hotel refers to himself as Lego while he contacts Duplo. Those both being brands of plastic brick toys for building.
  • Napster Varley, is the trader who buys Lady Naga and tries to sell her to the Traktionstadtsgesellschaft. His name is could be both a play on Napa Valley, a famous wine producing area of California and also a reference to Napster, the infamous file sharing service that Metallica got shut down. 
  • While discussing Stalker Anna Fang's state of mind with Fishcake, Popjoy refers to the 'ghost in the machine' as being Anna's lingering memory. The concept is a critique of the concept that the mind can exist without the body. Closer to Philip Reeve's heart is the fact that The Ghost in the Machine was the name of The Police's fourth album.
  • On page 487 a fellow aboard Wolf's Traction 'Borough' exclaims as they've fallen into Wren's trap, "What in the name of Thatcher has happened?' This is clearly a reference to the Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher,  Prime Minister of England for a decade and one of the greatest leaders of the free world. Depending if you're of mining stock of course...

Concept art of the Medusa Weapon being opened above Saint Paul's Cathedral by artist Jaekyung Jaguar Lee.

What is the meaning of the title "A Darkling Plain" from Mortal Engines?

Friday, April 28, 2017
'a darkling plain' book cover by Philip Reeve

The meaning of A Darkling Plain comes from a poem called 'Dover Beach'

I'll admit that when I'd first learned of the title, A Darkling Plain, I had no idea what it meant. It actually reminded me of something out of The Dark Crystal movie or some kind of evil spirit. But of course, that's not what author Philip Reeve meant it the title.

Just as Reeve borrowed a quote from Shakespeare's Othello play for Mortal Engines, the title of A Darkling Plain is borrowed from Matthew Arnold's famous poem Dover Beach.

Here's the excerpt from the poem:

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

This part of the poem is reasoned to be referring to the Peloponnesian War.

This relates to the novel in several ways. The characters are indeed swept about, often against their will, by the "ignorant armies" of the Green Storm and Tractionists, on the "darkling plain" of the Great Hunting Ground. But just as the key result of the Peloponnesian War, a unified city if Athens was born, so too many clashes are resolved one way or another in A Darkling Plain.

Reeve references his choice of title himself towards the end of the book when the character Nimrod Pennyroyal writes a book within a book titled Ignorant Armies.

Anyways the book itself is quite a brilliant story and serves as a high stakes conclusion to the quartet. Here's our review.

Order A Darkling Plain from Book Despository and get free shipping.

Themes of the Mortal Engines movie

Wednesday, April 26, 2017
themes of mortal engines

What are the themes of the Mortal Engines book?

While Mortal Engines was written as a Young Adults sci-fi novel, the themes to be found within are very universal and in many cases not just for youths but for anyone who's ever loved anyone else, been forced to do things they did wish to do or simply wondered what would happen if the world went to hell in a hand basket.

The concept post-apocalypse novel has been around for years and some truly classic works have been published. My personal favorites include The Postman, The Day of Triffids and the more modern The Road by Cormack McCarthy.

Generally these kinds of books are set in some post atomic meltdown scenario but they are not really about that. When all is boiled down, these books are about humanity, the human character and the desire to sustain that character.

And Mortal Engines is no exception to this.

Outwit, outlast, outplay - survival of the fittest?

A central theme of this post-apocalyptic / dystopian book is the destruction of that world's way of life (that which existed before the 60 Minute War) and the subsequent struggle of restoring civilization and technology and reclaiming that element of lost humanity.

In Mortal Engines this reclamation works on two levels - our two protagonists Hester Shaw and Tom Natsworthy come to an understanding within themselves and each other about who they really are and in more broad terms, the book signals the end of the concept of Municipal Darwinism and a return to more 'humane' modes of living - this of course plays out in far greater through the following three sequels.

And that all sounds very romantic but when we are talking about the survival of cities, we are talking about the concept of survival of the fittest.

Let's explore this by taking a step back and considering the book's title. Mortal Engines.

If you didn't pick it, it is a quotation borrowed from William Shakespeare's play 'Othello'.

The full quote from Act III, scene iii is said by the character of Othello himself:

"And O you mortal engines whose rude throats / Th'immortal Jove's dread clamors counterfeit..."

It serves as a commentary on the book's concept of 'Municipal Darwinism'.

Municipal Darwinism is the 'technological ecosystem' by which most of the world of Mortal Engines works. While Shakespeare is referring to humans as being mortal engines, Reeve's turns the two words on the head of what Shakespeare meant and gives it a double meaning.

In theory, eventually the giant traction cities will have nothing left to consume and will die, thus proving to be mortal. The other is Shakespeare's - that regardless of your 'level of humanity' (such as that found in Tom Natsworthy) you will still die because you are mortal.

That's some heavy stuff for a young adult book!

Social Classes and Structure

Social class systems can kind of look like a wedding cake, especially the Victorian model. The lower class is the largest by measure of population size, and each higher class gets smaller and smaller until you get to the fabled 1% at the top, looking down on everyone.

It's basically the same in on the great traction city of London. Reeves actually describes it as looking like the tiers of a wedding cake, with the smog-filled lower layer powering the city, and with gleaming white buildings at the top, where the ruling class lives.

It's a deliberate theme of movie - those at the top of the cake, wield power over those that support them and actually enable them.

Let them eat cake indeed!

Family and lovers

In Mortal Engines, Tom Natsworthy has no family. 

Hester's family has been murdered by Thaddeus Valentine 

Katherine Valentine loves her father, Valentine.

The Shrike loves Hester and wants her to live with her forever as a Stalker. 

Bevis Pod is in lust with Katherine.

As we mentioned above, while this book is set in a dystopian world where giant cities eat each other and the best mode of transportation is by air balloon, all the action revolves around humanity. And at it's most basic condition, humanity is family. 

Mortal Engines covers it all. 

The love between Tom and Hester. How Hester's mother and father were murdered by Thaddeus Valentine so he could get his hands on the Medusa Weapon. The Shrike, even though he has died and was brought back to life, had at one time spent so much time with Hester that he feel in love with her and wanted to live with her forever (in a wholesome way...). 

Young Lust is an Aerosmith song but it must have been playing over the loudspeakers somewhere in London because it's every where in Mortal Engines. Tom thinks Katherine is a bit of all right for a while till he meets Hester. Katherine thinks Bevis is a bit of alright. Teenage Kicks indeed. 

List of people from Lord of the Rings who have acting roles in Mortal Engines

Sunday, April 23, 2017
List of lord of the rings connections to mortal engines

It figures that given Christian Rivers is directing the Peter Jackson produced Mortal Engines, there will be plenty of Kiwi and other actors and actresses who will be given a chance to get in front of the camera.

Here's a list of names we know so far that have a role of any size in Mortal Engines - the criteria being they had on screen time in Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit trilogy.
  • Hugo Weaving plays Thaddeus Valentine. He played Elrond in all three LOTR and turned up in the Hobbit as well.
  • Megan Edwards was Mrs Proudfoot in The Fellowship of the Ring
  • Mark Hadlow played Dori in the Hobbit trilogy and now plays Orme Wreyland.
  • Nathaniel Lees played Ugluk in The Two Towers.
  • Stephen Ure who played a few characters including Gorbag is playing Pewsey, a pilot of the 13th Floor Airship. 
  • Liz Merton who was an extra in LOTR and King Kong has a part apparently named 
  • Sarah Peirse had two roles in the Hobbit films. She is playing Doctor Twix.

We are also picking that Christian Rivers will be on list if he cameos as he had a small part in The Two Towers

hugo weaving

Mrs Proudfoot from LOTR has a role in Mortal Engines

megan edwards to have a role in mortal engines

Megan Edwards, who many a Lord of the Rings fan will recognise as Mrs Proudfoot from The Fellowship of the Ring, has garnered a wee role in Mortal Engines.

Bold Artist Management actually made the announcement on March 7:

We can finally announce that our longtime client, Megan Edwards, will join the cast in the feature film "Mortal Engines".

So there we go, another Kiwi connection to the movie. 

According to IMDB Megan is a Gemini and is 1.63 meters tall!

Who wrote the Mortal Engines movie script?

Friday, April 21, 2017

If Philip Reeve wrote the book, who wrote the Mortal Engines movie script?

First up, Reeve did not write the script of the feature movie. He sold the filming rights to his works to Peter Jackson's production company, we think, in approximately 2008. Since that time he has had extremely limited involvement in the production of the movie.

So who then wrote the script for the film?

Enter the Oscar winning trio of Philippa Boyens, Fran Walsh and Peter Jackson. The threes have written the scripts collaboratively for most of Jackon's filming career since the original Lord of the Rings movie. If you also weren't aware, Jackson and Walsh are married.

Boyens has written all the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movies with Fran and Peter and also has a credited hand in King Kong, The Lovely Bones and of course Mortal Engines.

NZ On Screen notes that "Boyens studied English and History at Auckland University, and worked in theatre as a writer, producer and script editor. She also spent time as director of the New Zealand Writer’s Guild. Boyens first became a Tolkien fan as a child. When she came onboard to help the writing team on The Lord of the Rings, she had already read the trilogy seven times."

After doing some TV work in the 1980s, Walsh met Peter Jackson in the mid-80s, while he was in the final stages of making his feature debut and kiwi classic Bad Taste. She and Jackson were among the quartet of writers on his puppet follow-up Meet the Feebles.

On the collaboration between the three, Jackson has said about the working relationship

" It's a lack of respect though, too. The worst thing when you're collaborating is when you have to be polite, when you have to say, 'Well that's a good idea!' Whereas we can just say, 'Come on, that's stupid!' As a collaboration, that makes it so much easier. You can just be honest and no one gets offended. You respect, you have trust and it leads to a lack of respect, which is also very healthy."

The New York Times once summarised what each team writing member brings to the party in "Ms. Walsh has a knack for conveying emotion, Ms. Boyens excels at structure (and line readings), and Mr. Jackson is the visual genius."

No word if Peter and the Gang will be doing the second film in the series, Predator's Gold but one can imagine that the plot lines are slowly been drawn out.

Fun fact - Mortal Engines is the first film these three have written together were Peter has not directed the movie himself. 

Fun fact 2: The writing team when through seven drafts of the script before it was given to the principal actors on their arrival in NZ.

James Bond actor cast in Mortal Engines

Thursday, April 20, 2017
Cast of mortal engines

Sorry for the click bait, we couldn't help ourselves.

Three times James Bond actor Colin Salmon, Rege-Jean Page (of Roots fame) and Game of Thrones actor Patrick Malahide have joined the cast of the Mortal Engines movie.

We know that Colin Salmon is playing Chudleigh Pomeroy, the deputy Head Historian of London.

Perhaps Malahide is up for Magnus Chrome? We have no idea. Actually we do! It's confirmed. 

Was this the inspiration for the Traction Cities?

Wednesday, April 19, 2017
We joke of course but this idea isn't as crazy as it sounds....

Old warship converted into a tank

Found on Reddit.

Fan made movie of Shrike attacking Hester Shhhhaaaaawwwwww!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The real terror of Mortal Engines is not the Medusa or London City eating other cities but the Shrike. A dead man given the kiss of life by crazed scientists, the shrike is an assassin for hire, one that wishes only to capture Hester Shaw!

Check out this fan made movie of the Shrike about to make his move:

"The person who uploaded the movie gave these details about the making of the short film:

A character, (Shrike,) that I worked on as part of a mortal engines project back in my student days.

The animatronics, hard costume elements and shrike's prosthetics are my work, (I am also the unfortunate soul who got to play Shrike.)

The rest of shrike's costume was produced by Jenni Munday.

The actress playing the other character, (Hester Shaw,) is Alyssa Burnett, whose Prosthetic and costume were made by Isabelle Riley.

The interior set and cockpit was designed by Louise Hewson with the structure designed by Thomas Antony Lowthian.

This footage was filmed by Oliver Lloyd."

And while we are at it, here's a a really cool animation of Tom Hester in the Library of London City:

Hugo Weaving cast in Mortal Engines movie

Wednesday, April 12, 2017
Hugo Weaving cast in Mortal Engines


Agent Smith himself is to play the dastardly Thaddeus Valentine in Mortal Engines.

Cast by Peter Jackson and director Christian Rivers, Weaving with play one of the bad guys of the movie.

Weaving has played Elrond in the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings 5 times for Jackson so they must have a fairly strong working relationship for Jackson to again cast him.

Weaving has collected quite the array of wonderful characters in movies. While he made his name as Agent Smith in the Matrix, turns as Red Skull in Captain America and Avengers: Infinity War, the voice of Megatron in Transformers and as the titular V in V for Vendetta.

The role of Thaddeus Valentine is a key part of the plot of Mortal Engines, his duel with Anna Fang will probably be quite the highlight.

What is the release date of the Mortal Engines movie?

Saturday, April 8, 2017

When is Mortal Engines released?

Mortal Engines has been given a prime release date of December 14, 2018. 

This is is a classic Christmas Holiday season release date - only major films get released around this time.

So what does this release date mean?

It means that Universal Pictures and Peter Jackson is going in large with this Christian Rivers directed movie.

This means we can expect a big filming budget, a massive marketing campaign and a huge amount of merchandising tie-ins. Indeed they have already begun with new covers for the books and the anouncement of the Anna Fang short story collection the Illustrated Worlds book.

There will naturally be a massive re-examination of the Predator City books. It will be interesting to see how they are marketed as the quadrilogy has different names in different sales territories.

So strap in, grab a gin and tonic, it's going to be an awesome ride until December!

The next question is when will the Blu Ray and DVD be released?

The London Premiere will be held on November 27th.

What is the Anti Traction League?

london traction city

In a world where Municipal Darwinism is the accepted orthodoxy as a 'way of life', should the Anti Traction League's place in the Mortal Engines' Universe cast them as the villains or heroes of the piece?

You know how in Return of the Jedi when Obi-Wan Kenobi tries to convince Luke that he did not lie to him about his father and that it was true from a 'certain point of view'?

I kind of see it that way.

The novel of Mortal Engine's present's the Anti Traction League as the rogue outsiders, spies who live beyond the law of the lawless. If you were a citizen of the city of London and you suffered an attack by the League on your good self, you might see them as a terrorist outfit.

Or, if you were fearful of the giant cities eating you and your family and thought their efforts to defend you from predator cities, you might see them as heroes. 

So what is the Anti-Traction League?

At the time of Mortal Engines, the Anti-Traction League is an organization opposed to the prevalence of the Traction Cities and the principle of Municipal Darwinism that pervades the era.

The League was founded by a man named Lama Batmunkh in the aftermath of the Black Centuries which followed the Sixty Minute War and then for thousands of years since, the Anti Traction League has been a kind of Ying to the Yang of the Traction Cities.

The League is the actually the dominant power in Southern Asia though it also has territories in Africa and the Andes Eastern China is evidently irradiated by the War, and the Himalayas are now the centre of civilization, where the mountains make it impossible for resource hungry traction cities like London to approach (unless of course London has the Medusa weapon activated...)

The Anti Traction League is actually made up of many nations and kingdoms, whose people live in static towns and cities. The principal nation is Shan Guo, located in Western China and Central Asia.

Given this, the arguments about whether the League are the good guys or not get a bit messy when we start to compare population groups and sizes...

Of course you should also never become a monster in order to defeat a monster... and we'll discuss that concept a little further soon but first we must discuss the face of the Anti Traction League, the great and wondrous:

Agent Anna Fang!

anna fang sketch
In the Mortal Engines novel, Anna Fang is an Asian aviator that Hester Shaw and Tom Natsworthy meet shortly after their 'expulsion' from the city of London.

It quickly transpires she is a pretty handy in a tight spot and effectively she saves Tom and Hester from the Shrike when they escape from Airhaven.

Anna Fang leads a successful attack on the the pirate town 'Tunbridge Wheels' and sinks it. She then picks up Tom and Hester again and even though they now have learned that she is an Anti-Tractionist, they are still friends with her.

During an attack on the air fleet at the end of the novel she is killed by dastardly Thaddeus Valentine when he stabs her through the neck.

Stalker Anna Fang!

stalker anna fang
But dead is not dead in the realm of the Mortal Universe.

Have you ever heard of the Stalkers?

They are dead beings corrupted by unexplained technology that can reanimate the dead.

Stalkers are usually under the control of their masters but it's hard to keep a good Anna Fang down....

That's right, in Predator's Gold, Anna Fang's body is stolen from her burial place by the 'Green Storm' and subjected to the re-animation process and brought back to life.

For the rest of the series, Anna Fang lives as the undead! However this does not mean that it's the same Anna Fang. While self aware, the undead Anna Fang proves to be a heartless killing machine.

Which brings us to Green Storm

The Green Storm is a fanatical splinter group of the Anti-Traction League.

Its primary objective is to destroy all Traction Cities and "make the world green again", since the Traction Cities' constant movement and hunting for resources long ago destroyed much of the world's vegetation.

The Green Storm's rule is portrayed as militaristic, totalitarian and absolute, tolerating no dissent. They are also pretty keen on building an army of undead stalkers. An engineer that survived the destruction of London called Popjoy has developed many stalkers and was responsible for bringing Anna Fang back to life.

The Green Storm eventually overthrow the ruling High Council of the Anti Traction League .

Over the next fifteen years, the Green Storm under the leadership of the Stalker Fang they conquered half of the known world with its vast legions of Stalkers, fighter airships and Air Destroyers and this progress was mostly at the expense of the remaining Traction Cities.

And who led Green Storm while all this happened? The merciless and monstrous Anna Fang!

Extra for Experts:

  • The Anti Traction League's formal symbol is a broken wheel, serving to show the goal of the League, the breaking of the traction cities. 
  • The symbol of the Green Storm is a jagged green lightning bolt.
  • The lands under the control of the League are protected from Traction Cities by the so called "Shield Wall". It is heavily defended and almost impenetrable, unless of course you have the Medusa Weapon - which London City managed to get hold of.

What was the filming name of Mortal Engines?

Friday, April 7, 2017

What is the filming name of Mortal Engines?

Many movies have working film titles. This is often because the formal title has not yet been decided or used as a diversionary tactic so that the film production isn't charged extra by third parties (simply because they assume big blockbuster films have big budgets) or just to keep fans away from the physical fan locations.

Just as Return of the Jedi was known as Blue Harvest, Mortal Engines has a working title.

We're just not wholly sure what it is.

We do suspect however that it's 'Squeaky Wheels'.

This is due to the email address that was used in the casting call advertisement:


While that could just be a clever reference to the movie, it could well be the title.

Time will tell. 

Update: We're pretty sure Squeaky Wheels is the filming title as we have discovered Peter Jackson has incorporated a company called Squeaky Wheels.

Or, it could be "Hungry City".

Facts about Philip Reeve, author of Railhead and Mortal Engines

philip reeve author railhead pose

With the forth coming Mortal Engines movie, we can expect that there will be a fair bit of increased interest in the Predator Cities Quartet and it's author Philip Reeve. So we thought it might be fun to put together a small biography and set of trivia about Mr Reeve.

From reading interviews with him, his blog and other media such as Twitter, he actually seems like a genuinely awesome dude. One that really tries to connect with his fans, which is just fabulous.

Here's some things we've learned.
    Philip Reeve author of Predator's Gold.
  • The original drafts of his novel were intended to be an adult novel, but after several rejections book publisher Scholastic said they might be interested in Mortal Engines if it was developed as children's story. This mean the plot was heavily revised and elements such as 'city politics' were excised as well as other characters. 
  • The Mortal Engines 'world' was also originally written as an alternate universe set in the early 1900s, but Reeve says this idea would have required just too much explaining as how and where that history could have diverged from our reality.
  • Reeves was born on 28 February 1966.
  • Prior to achieving success as an author, Reeves worked in a bookshop before he became a professional illustrator. He fit writing Mortal Engines around this work.
  • Reeve has claimed not to be a methodical writer. He does not plan out his stories but usually starts with an opening image or idea, an inkling of where it might close and simply commits to writing the journey in between.
  • He has co-written a musical, The Ministry of Biscuits, with writer and composer Brian Mitchel. Its set for a revival this year in 2017.
  • Plays a cameo part in the Mortal Engines movie as an extra
  • The original idea for giant movies came from a story Reeve wrote called Urbivore. Eventually the concepts were turned into Mortal Engines. 

Why was the 'Shrike' renamed 'Grike' in the American version of Mortal Engines?

Tuesday, April 4, 2017
shrike green eyes mortal engines

One of our favorite characters in Mortal Engines is the character known as 'Shrike'.

Or as we call him 'The Shrike'.

It just seems more terrifying a name that way.

In an off beat way, it's like 'The Edge' from U2.

It's just so definitive.

At face value he's a cold, undead, killing machine, whose only purpose is to kill Tom and Hester.

He's like a Terminator but with green glowing eyes instead of deathly red. 

Underneath those eyes though lies the sad tale of an honest man named Kit Solent who loved his children and missed his dead wife.

On his death, after a pretty great adventure (check out the Fever Crumb book series), he was turned into a Stalker becoming known and feared as The Shrike!

The Shrike is so named as he was a part of the infamous 'Lazarus Brigade', a gang of stalkers that did their best work during the time of Northern Nomad armies. The brigade was so named for the man Lazarus in the Christian Bible who rose from the dead just like the stalkers were raised.

And this is where Shrike's name comes into play. All the members of the Brigade were named after the kind of bird and so Solent became Shrike.

It's really an excellent nomenclature for the bounty hunter as even though Shrike birds look harmless, they actually have a reputation for brutally dealing with their food.

Known as "butcher birds" shrike have a most wonderful trick of impaling insects such as bees and even lizards' bodies on thorns, the spikes on barbed-wire fences, or any available sharp point.

Obviously, these little 'Vlad the Impalers' have a plan with that move - and that's to keep food handy for eating at a later time but also, in say the case of grasshoppers, they are left until the toxins in their body break down and then may be eaten, free of consequence.

That's a lot of words to explain the name but it's damned clever work of Philip Reeve. Shrike is not just named after a bird but a bird that kills its prey by stabbing them and leaving them for dead, to eat them at their later leisure.

The actual Vlad the Impaler would have surely been impressed!

So that's the meaning of Shrike's name accounted for.

shrike grike name change

But why in the American versions of the Predator Cities novels was Shrike changed to Grike?

I can't find much to explain this, to be honest so it's also speculation on my part from here on in.

Given we know that Reeve likes to name things in his books based on real things in his realm in England, Grike could mean the name of a hill in Lake District.

This would be a sad inspiration for a name as it looks to be a bloody boring place.

Or, if you know a thing or two about limestone pavements you'll know that a grike or gryke is a fissure separating blocks or clints in such a pavement.

Hardly a terrifying name as a shrike eh?

So why this name change of Shrike to Grike?

It's quite possibly because of an American book series known as Hyperion Cantos by author Dan Simmons.

Those novels feature a character called 'The Shrike'.

Described as a menacing half-mechanical, half-organic four armed creature he shares a similarity with the Shrike of Mortal Engines in that he acts both autonomously and as a servant of some unknown force or entity.

He too also shares the characteristics of the bird he's probably named for and likes to impale his victims on a 'Tree of Thorns'.

The first Hyperion novel was published in 1989. Mortal Engines was published in 2001, 12 odd years later.

Enough time for Reeves to become acquainted with Simmon's character.

So given this, the American publishers of Predator Cities probably thought it best to avoid any concerns about copyright or claims of plagiarism by Mortal Engine's author Philip Reeve and changed the name. Grike sounds like Shrike and was probably the closest thing they could came up with that sounded true to Reeve's character.

That said, the concept of the 'shrike' has been used in many plays, poems, films and TV shows over the years so it's more likely that Reeve took inspiration from them all.

It's possible the publishers were simply trying to avoid any confusion amongst readers.

This is of course all speculation on my behalf and I'm not saying that Reeves stole anyone's intellectual property. Anyways, you can't copyright an idea!

We presume that for the movie, Christian Rivers will retain the name Shrike for the character. Update - he did! Shrike is the name that will be used.


Reeve did a Q and A session and revealed the truth which is as we surmised:

A very simple question: Shrike VS Grike: Do you know what happened? Why the Americans decided his name simply had to be changed?

Yes! Apparently, there's a character called The Shrike in some SF books by Dan Simmons. (Oh, thank you, Jenny Haniver!). I'd never heard of them - I got it from the bird - and there's no copyright in names - it's like The Master in Dr Who and The Master in Buffy I guess - but the US publisher was worried about it and asked me to change it, and since time was very short and I was busy with serious real- stuff at the time I just went 'Brike? Crike? Drike? Frike? GRIKE, that'll do.' I always wished afterward I'd put up more of a fight because it's led to endless confusion, but hey ho.

(He was called Shreck originally, I guess that would have been worse.) I think I heard something about the Shrek film coming out and changed it for that reason - I can't remember.

(He was named after Max Shreck, the actor who played Nosferatu in the Murnau film.) oh, Murnau, that came in useful, too...
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