Mortal Engines (The Hungry City Chronicles #1) by Philip Reeve

Mortal Engines (The Hungry City Chronicles, #1)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Date read: July 16 to 23, 2018

This book gets a solid OKAY from me: good for young adult, but just fine overall. There was one thing about it that I couldn’t get behind, and that one thing got in the way of my enjoyment. More on that below.

Generally speaking, this writing was too young for me, but this time I say that as an observation, not a critique, because it’s written/meant for a younger audience (middle-grade level). Readers who enjoy YA would enjoy it as well, but the writing gave me that feeling that it was written with young readers in mind. Almost everything about it was geared toward young readers, from the young wholesome protagonists who are eager to throw themselves into the fray, to their fight to overthrow a corrupt system, to their grand magnanimous ideals, to the industrialized dystopian setting, to the bleak look at an environmentally devastating future, to the mustache twirling villains, to the non-stop action, and the list goes on, right into the spoilers. So I’ll stop listing things here.

I would recommend this book to young readers and anyone looking forward to seeing the movie adaptation. It’s a little violent for YA, with some characters getting killed rather graphically, but the ideas and visuals and hydraulics this book inspire will look incredible on screen.

To get to that one thing that took me out of the story, I have to explain a little about the set-up. The conceit, Municipal Darwinism, is really interesting. The execution, though, is… not as interesting. Municipal Darwinism is basically big cities consuming smaller cities. Once consumed, the smaller cities get broken into parts and their resources are used to fuel the bigger cities. The people who are consumed either assimilate and resettle in the new city or they are enslaved; it all depends on how “ethical” the cities doing the consuming are.

Not all big cities are predators though. A few of them are peaceful, and survive by trading with smaller municipals. (I find them more interesting than the predators and wanted to find out more about them, but this story’s focus is on predator cities.)

“It was a dark, blustery afternoon in spring, and the city of London was chasing a small mining town across the dried-out bed of the old North Sea.”

These cities aren’t just cities stuck on land, though. They’re traction cities. Yeah, that’s right, they can move. They can run actually. Up to 100 km per hour, if I remember correctly. Yeah… This was where the book lost me. I could not imagine a city the size of London running around the world eating almost everything in sight at roughly 60 to 100 km per hour. I mean, the weight it carries alone would snap its appendages clean off every time it tries to move forward. Unless, somehow, the atmosphere is less dense and/or gravity is no longer a thing in this world… I don’t know. I could imagine everything this book threw at me, everything but cities running around on traction.

Apparently not being able to buy into this one thing unravels the whole book because I found the rest of the story hard to take in while I tried to work out how London was racing across the world, gulping down other cities.

I went through the same thing with Updraft by Fran Wilde. The ideas introduced–bone towers and flying contraptions–were really interesting, but the ways in which they were incorporated into the story and dystopian setting didn’t make much sense to me, and that took me right out of the world the author tried so hard to create. And once it lost me, I could not get back into it.

So that was my stumbling block for Mortal Engines. Wish I could have liked it more because it’s got four more books in the series, and I love series (but I love solid world building more). So not dismissing these books completely, just gonna put it on the maybe list for now.

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California Bones (Daniel Blackland #1) by Greg Van Eekhout

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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Date Read: December 2 to 5, 2017

Great ideas

  • osteomancy: magic derived from ingesting bones of ancient and mythology creatures (the powers these creatures give off are pretty amazing)
  • post-succession California: CA left the Union some years ago and then split into North and South, and now they’re constantly at war with each other and the Union
  • post-succession Los Angeles is an urban dystopic landscape that isn’t void of life or color
  • LA is still LA after all
  • Southern CA is under the reign of a megalomaniac who’s hoarding power and killing off other magic users
  • these killings are state sanctioned and done in waves
  • cannibalism
  • golems
  • travel by water: the Venice Canals play an important role in the story (I had no idea what these were, so had to look them up–very interesting water system)

So all great ideas, but the execution is just… all right.

I found the writing overall to be decent, but there were a few places where it was tedious and repetitive and oddly YA. Add to that some thin characters and a heist plot that’s wrapped up too quickly, and the whole thing felt incomplete. But this is the first of a trilogy, so that’s okay, I guess…

The heist was fun while it played out. Up to that point–more than half way through–I wasn’t really feeling the story or characters much, and the read was kind of a drag. Once the heist was put in motion though, things got interesting. Too bad they didn’t last long and were rushed toward a quick ending, in which several new elements were added to the story to be played out in the second book. So no satisfactory ending here.

When it comes down to the basics, my biggest issue with this book are the characters, individually and as a group. There’s a weird naivety to them that I found at odds with their experience and hardened criminal exteriors, and I never really got past that. There was always something about them that kept me from getting into the story

It’s very likely I will read the next book, but I’m gonna take a long break and come back to this series once all my residual annoyances clear.

Review: Mind Fuck (The Administration, #1) by Manna Francis

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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Date read: October 9 to 11, 2013
Read count: 1

An interesting read. Not at all what I was expecting. When I first read the summary and skimmed other reviewers’ responses, I thought this was going to be a mess.

What I was expecting:
Hardcore BDSM with a murder mystery set in a futuristic world interjected into the story. In between extended sex scenes, of course.

What I got:
Decent writing, interesting characterization, and an interesting pseudo-futuristic story. So basically it’s the opposite of my expectations.

The basic set up is this: there’s a murder mystery plot at the center of the story, a few explicit sex scenes thrown in to keep things interesting–sort of noir-ish in tone and atmosphere–and the unfolding of a corporation-centered world that’s built on sabotage. If explicit sex scenes aren’t your thing but you’re still interested in the book’s set-up, then you’re in luck (maybe?) because they are easy to skip in that they are sectioned off by chapters. You can essentially skip a whole scene by skipping a chapter, but I would at least skim it because there are things in it that’s crucial to plot and character development, and also because sex is the basis of the main characters’ semi-hostile budding relationship. They grow to like and appreciate each other later on, but at the beginning it was just sex. And intrigue. Mostly sex and some intrigue.

The world of New London is a futuristic, post-apocalyptic meltdown kind of world where familiar world orders are no longer in place. Instead, all of Europe is run by The Administration, a sociopathic draconian government body that favors a corporation-based society. We’re introduced to Val Toreth, a high-ranking government official who’s an investigator and interrogator by trade. He’s been assigned to a high-profile death that occurred at a fledgling tech company, and he has to determine whether the death is murder or suicide. Keir Warrick is head of the company under investigation. The start-up is in the final stages of testing a groundbreaking simulation technology, which might or might not be the cause of murder. Perhaps the technology is killing its users? Or is someone within the company sabotaging its development?

It’s sad and unfortunate that this book, well written and plotted as it is, isn’t getting a tenth of the attention Fifty Shades of Grey is getting. Well, we all know why that is. (**cough** heterosexuality always takes precedent **cough**) Though the explicit content itself isn’t so much the problem here since both series feature BDSM, or in Fifty Shades’ case, the author’s weird version of it. While Fifty Shades is making the rounds and will be made into a movie (or a series like the books… yikes), not many have even heard of The Administration. That is sad, really.

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