Title: Infernal Devices
Author: Philip Reeve
Publisher: 2009 by Scholastic Children’s Books (first published March 18th 2005)
Synopsis: Anchorage has become a static settlement on the shores of the Dead Continent, and its inhabitants have been living peacefully for sixteen years. But now trouble is approaching – in a limpet sub, and fast. The Lost Boys are back, and they’ll do anything to get what they want. Tom and Hester’s daughter Wren is their eager dupe, bored and desperate for adventure.
About seven years ago a fellow blogger mentioned a book that she called the best YA fiction she had ever read. I spotted Mortal Engines and Pedator’s Gold in the library and borrowed them and I’m not saying they changed my life*, but my life has changed quite a lot since then, and it’s partly due to those changes that its taken me this long to get round to reading Infernal Devices, the third of the Mortal Engines quadrology (is that what you call them). Anyway I spotted the rest of the books and the prequels In the fifth grade classroom and all thoughts of my current TBR pile slipped out of my mind, as well as the meeting I was supposed to be having and I became fixated on those books, a bit like Golum and the ring, you get my drift?
So I’m just going to be honest up front and say this is going to be a very biased review, because there are a lot of writers I like and then there is a small group I worship and they can do no wrong. So you understand where Philip Reeve is right?
In the previous books I really liked Tom and Hester, possibly Tom more than Hester, but there was something about her you liked. This one starts sixteen years later and Tom is balding and has a bit of a dodgy ticker and Hester is… ehm… not suited to static life, or even quite possibly motherhood. There are some characters from the previous book, but with the seven year gap I couldn’t quite remember them, or grow attached to them as Hester wiped some of them out pretty quickly.
With books that are series, there is always the problem that there will be huge bits of info dump as the writer tries to get the reader up to speed if they haven’t read the previous books (or read one seven years ago). While there were bits that caught us up with the past books, it was either through Wren wishing she could lead a more exciting life or quite naturally during the course of the story.
Which brings me on to Wren. At the beginning she is a bit like Kim in 24, you know, whiny, annoying and you kind of wish something bad will happen to her. Well it does and that’s where all likeness disappears, because Wren really does want adventure and although there is a bit of crying and feeling sorry for herself, she’s not one to leave her fate in the hands of others. In a way you kind of see whose block she’s chipped from.
So once all this is set up, then there’s the story. What I remember from the previous two books was this kind of tension. Bad things were always on the cusp of happening and in a way this is no different. The book starts off with Shrike being uncovered and being brought back to life by Doctor Oenone Zero. His only memory is of a face, but he cannot remember who it is. We find out that the traction wars have been raging for the past fourteen years between the Green storm and the Traction cities. We then switch to the peaceful (not) so idyllic life on Anchorage, where things are about to go bad.
Like the previous books, once the action starts there are multiple story lines to follow, Wren and her captor Fishcake, Tom, Hestor, Caul and Freya searching for Wren. And then as the action hots up everyone gets split up again. And despite the seven, eight, nine different plot lines we still get to see the character development. There are moments between Tom and Hestor which are so painfully authentic, that I’m not sure a teenager would understand what is going on. Fishcake’s overwhelming need for family is also perfectly understandable. Even in Hestor’s darkest moments there is something about her crazed need to get her daughter back that resonates. Really the only characters who are a bit lacking are Fang, but then she’s a stalker, so even her single-mindedness is realistic.
And did I mention the description? Beautiful sunrises over the desert. The town of Brighton is vivid in my mind and the smell of the Jenny Haniver too (yes even she makes a brief comeback).
So not surprisingly, this is a thrilling read, with a host of well written characters in an amazing landscape with a story that just has to continue. Can’t wait to read the last book.
And yes I give this book: