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...


  1. Man, that sucks. Grike just doesn't fit well; Shrike is a name that fit the character perfectly.

  2. okay.
    you made me read allllllllll of that garbage.
    you could have just copied and pasted the interview.
    why do companies pay thousands to anonymous bloggers to make their companies sound hip, when the bloggers just come across as daft tweens?

  3. Well, that kinda sucks. I bought the boxed set, and the first book refers to him as Shrike, while when (again) resurrected in the second book, he’s referred to as Grike. So my edition of the books mixes the two.


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