One of my favourite things about being an English teacher is that I get to host my two writing clubs: Scribblers and Ink. My favourite days are those when I get to spend time with some promising writers of the future!
As is often the case, the youth of today has such discerning taste. When I asked them to recommend to me their favourite YA dystopian books, one of them (a guy who I'm fairly sure is going to take over the world some day... so, needless to say, he cracks me up) suggested that I try out Philip Reeve's Mortal Engines series.
Now, my reading list is ridiculously long. I have a bazillion books which I've been meaning to read for an age or so. So every time one of my writers asked if I had got around to reading Mortal Engines, I kept having to apologise and promise that I'd do so as soon as possible.
I was very touched when the group decided to buy me the four books in the series as a gift! I know, how lovely!
So, with no excuses left and an honest desire to make my writers smile, I set about reading the first in the series and what an interesting read! I have been in love with dystopian writing ever since reading Harrison Bergeron, by Kurt Vonnegut, back in school. (This is an awesome short story and you all need to read it. Spectacular!)
Mortal Engines is both an inspiringly unique read, while it also reminded me of one of my favourite PS games: Final Fantasy VII. I suppose, by that, I mean to say that I've never seen anything so hugely original within 200ish pages, while games like Final Fantasy VII have 70+ hours to sell their imaginary worlds to your senses. Reeve was brave to endeavour to do the same, and tremendously successful in doing so.
You would think that in order to create this original dystopia, Reeve would have to rely somewhat on clichés and archetypes. But he doesn't. The book's protagonist, Tom, is not a hero. Tom's best friend and the girl he seems (so far - only on book one!) to be falling for, Hester, is described as hideous more than once. She is no damsel in distress, no beautiful maiden in need of rescuing. Even the antagonist, Mr. Valentine, is a character who you can understand and empathise with to a degree. Reeve takes convention, and turns it on its head in Mortal Engines.
I can't wait to get on to reading the rest of the books in the series. So far Reeve's writing has been daring and original. But more than that, I can finally tell my writers what I thought of their recommendation: Utterly fantastic!