on 26 September 2008
First a warning - do not attempt to read this book unless you've read the previous two books in the series: you will be extremely confused! And now a warning for those who have read the other books: this one is a little different to start with. It's a long time since the action of the previous books, and there's a new character - Wren, daughter of Hester and Tom. She's a typical teenager, rebellious and wanting her own life, and to break free from the constraints of Anchorage, a city stuck on the Dead Continent.
Things soon start happening and the action picks up, but it's not the same as the first two books. There isn't the sparkle and invention of the previous volumes. It moves quite quickly, but with no particular driving theme. I was quite disappointed, but kept reading, because I've heard that the 4th book is very good, so wanted to make sure I got through this one.
Then halfway through everything changes: from the scene where Pennyroyal and his wife Boo-Boo are having breakfast Reeve seems to find his old voice and creativity again. I was laughing out loud at some of the ridiculous names, and the references to other books and films come back again. Philip Pullman is mentioned, but in disguise, and Reeve takes a swipe at modern art as well, in the guise of Anthony Gormley. This is great for adults reading these books.
The plot also picks up, with various threads coming together to a very exciting last third of the book. Reeve is back on form with some major surprises, as well as bringing out some themes which you feel he's been building on since the first book, particular concerning the fearsome Stalkers.
Again, plenty of quite gory deaths, which some may find inappropriate for younger readers, but overall, by the end of the book I was very impressed and impatient to read number 4. So stick with this one, it's worth reading.
on 3 April 2005
I don't usually rate books this highly but Infernal Devices, the sequel to Mortal Engines and Predator's Gold, truly deserves 5 stars. Although the story is nothing incredible to begin with, by the last 200 pages it is clear the story is nothing short of an Oscar-winning action film on paper. Philip Reeve once again shows his skill at storytelling, as you find yourself totally encapsulated by characters and their exhilarating surroundings.
Anyone who has read Reeve's previous books will know what to expect from Infernal Devices. Set in the distant future, the author creates an incredibly real setting out of a concept that is difficult to get one's mind around; that of huge cities that trundle around eating one another.
Characters new to the series slot effortlessly in with the old. In the third book we meet a few new characters as well as learning what has happened to older characters and how they've developed in the 16 years between this book and Predator's Gold. Tom and Hester don't take such a central role as they did in the first two books. Instead the story is focused on their 15-year-old daughter, Wren, born shortly after the end of the 2nd book.
Wren is fed up with her life in Anchorage-in-Vineland and it's tiresomely normal inhabitants: like Miss Freya (ex-margravine turned school teacher) and Caul (ex-Lost Boy turned lonely recluse). So when Gargle (now all grown up!) and the Lost Boys turn up looking for a mysterious Tin Book, Wren is almost too eager to get herself wrapped up in the adventure. The story takes us to never before seen cities, with devious new characters committing dastardly deeds, with kidnap, disguise, betrayal, murder, Slave traders and Pennyroyal thrown into the mix, with the ongoing war between Green Storm and the Traction Cities becoming evermore part of the tale.
Fans of previous books will not be disappointed, with Philip Reeve's witty humour still ever present. I loved the way he built up the pace of the book towards the end so you could really feel part of the spectacular events taking place on the page and also the great little details and hints about "Ancients", "Old-tech" and "the sixty minute war" that links his futuristic yet historic world with our own. I am 15 and recommend this book to anyone between the ages of 9 and 18. It's a great read and personally I cannot wait for A Darkling Plain, the conclusion of this fantastic series, in which, I hope, we learn more about the secret of ODIN (Read the Book!). These books definitely belong up there with Harry Potter, Artemis Fowl and Lord of the Rings. One of my favourite series.
on 5 April 2005
Plot and basic idea of the series - The three books by author Philip Reeve are set in the distant future, some thousand years in fact. They are set hundreds of years after "the great war" in which the "ancients" (that's us!), destroyed their world in sixty minutes. After this, cities have become movable, now named traction-cities; they roam the wastes of the world in search of smaller towns to eat.
Having read and thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in the series (Mortal Engines and Predator's Gold), I must admit that I had very high expectations of this third book. Was I disappointed? Well, yes and no.
In a way I felt let-down before I'd even looked at the first page, since I realised that the two main characters from the first two books, Tom and Hester, would not be the same, as the book is set fifteen years after their initial adventures. However I felt that the author overcame this problem quickly. Although the first few chapters are centred on a new character, Tom and Hester's daughter - Wren, the book felt the same, and was as gripping as the previous instalments.
For me, the main attraction to the books is the world that Philip Reeve conjures. The books are set in the distant future, and although the breathtaking ideas are somewhat like a fairytale, they are in a strange way, believable.
The fact that the author creates a whole new world means that the reader needs to explore it. And the first two books are perfect for this, as the travels of Hester and Tom, allow you to see the many wonderful ideas that Philip Reeve has.
However this whole book mainly takes place in Anchorage, Grimsby and chiefly Brighton, which made me feel frustrated as there wasn't the chance to see more of the strange world.
The plot surrounding Anna Fang and Dr Zero is interesting, as is the whole idea of the Anti-tractionists and their war to make the world "green again". But the highpoint of the book has to be, the shocking, thrilling ending. The final chapters of the book, and indeed the final pages, are incredible, the twists and turns are unbearable, but left me waiting for the final book - A darkling plain.
Putting this book aside (if you can), and looking at the series as a whole, Philip Reeve's books are certainly some of the best I've ever read, which is why I bought this book the day after it was published. In his first book, Mortal Engines, he succeeds in painting an utterly original picture of the future. In a way it's partly science-fiction, and I say partly, because it's nothing like star trek, it has a completely unique feel to it, I myself am not a great fan of sci-fi, but I thought the books were amazing.
I really don't want to put anyone off buying this book, it, and the two previous tales make absolutely essential reading. On the whole the series is one to rival Harry Potter, absolutely brilliant. However be sure you buy the first two books as well, as you definitely shouldn't miss reading the whole story.
In my opinion the book is suitable for most between the ages of 12 and 16.
on 7 November 2009
After the excellent Mortal Engines and Predator's Gold, Infernal Devices seems like nothing more than a cheap filler before the quartet's conclusion. Perhaps as a stand-alone book I might have taken more kindly to it. But when put beside its two predecessors, it suffers badly.
Reeve seems much more inclined to be humorous in Infernal Devices, as if deciding he should do a turn being Terry Pratchett. But rather than amuse as intended, this 'wit' kept lifting me completely out of the story. A vessel called the Visible Panty Line might seem quite quirky in draft form, but I couldn't convince myself anything like this would happen in a real, believable world. And this is just the start of it. There are gags running throughout, so that after dealing with the weighty and serious issues of the first two books of the series, you are left wondering what the hell is going on.
Also I would note that the character of Tom nettled me beyond belief. I can quite appreciate how Reeve has tried to balance Hester's callousness with something softer and more palatable. But this castrated christ-like individual??? He reminded me of some sort of neutered Hugh Grant saying 'Golly gosh' and 'Really, we shouldn't step on insects - they have feelings too." Perhaps I'm being overly harsh. But I thought the first two books set such a high standard that this is something of an insult to the reader. Indeed I had the impression throughout that it was simply a cash-generating exercise knocking a fine trilogy entirely out of shape.
on 22 January 2009
I might have to start my own Philip Reeve fan club because I think he is such a good writer. I've been reading through this series with my son who is about to turn twelve, and we finished Infernal Devices last night - wow! We normally read one or two chapters a night, but it was so exciting last night that we read four chapters to finish the book. One of the other reviews said the book was slow to start, but that it picked up at the start of part two - funnily enough, we thought the opposite - we thought it started really well, and kept the momentum through the whole of part one, and then dipped a bit at the start of part two, but picked up again towards the end. It's funny how different people like different things in a book. There is a great deal of building up suspense throughout the book, and we both loved the complex characters - the stalkers are brill, and Dr Zero is great, and I loved the flaws in the characters, Hester is getting very interesting and the ending of the book makes you want to start reading the next book (and final part of the series) instantly. Oooh er, my son and I said, what's going to happen now?
on 4 April 2008
I read Mortal Engines and was enthralled from first page to last. I couldn't believe it could get any better. But it did. Predator's Gold was an even more incredible and breathtaking read. Then came Infernal Engines, and in comparison to the previous two, is a bit of a let down. Infernal Engines simply does not have the depth of plot or character study. It has moved on in time (as previous reviewers have mentioned), Tom and Hester have grown up and changed (disappointingly so), and in their place is a void. What real interest does the audience (I assume these books are aimed at young teens) have in a couple of grown ups? and their daughter, Wren, is a bit too insipid to fill their shoes... the plot, unlike in previous books, is quite flat in the sense that it is linear and on the whole predictable... Infernal Devices is still a decent book in this young teenage sci-fi adventure genre, but when compared to its two predecessors in the series, it pales...
on 8 September 2010
This third in the series of four is longer than the others, but doesn't feel stretched or bloated. If you've already read the back cover, read on. Otherwise skip this paragraph for the review. (SPOILERS) The author turns a great trick by skipping ahead a generation and introducing the child of the two main characters. This really allows the story to breathe and although the new character as pretty naff, this change reflects wonderfully on the characters and the female lead in particular, whose progressing story and developments you won't believe!
The story carries on from the last with a gap in the timeline. Disappointing is that the scene-setting cliffhanger of the last book, which suggested urgency and impending chaos, didn't turn out that way and sort of drifts about the place like a punctured zeppelin. Aside from that, the developing story is okay but not as surprising - perhaps this is because the originality of the world is fading a little.
Thankfully there are few new characters and development concentrates on those we already know about, which is a very good thing and proves that despite being the creature of some great, outlandish, imaginative stories, the author is very adult and restrained, choosing to write a decent book instead of losing focus and taking the easy route.
Successful but starting to feel a little stale, worth reading if you devoured the first two though. Hopefully the series won't peter out with the fourth/final book!
7 / 10
Author of 'Half Discovered Wings'
16 years after the events in PREDATOR'S GOLD, Tom and Hester live with their daughter, Wren, in Anchorage, which has now settled in Vineland. Tom is content and dotes on his daughter, but Wren argues constantly with Hester and both women are bored with Anchorage's safe, humdrum existence.
Wren's chance for adventure comes when Gargle arrives with a crew of Lost Boys and asks her to steal the Tin Book, an artefact from The Sixty Minute War. Wren agrees but when things turn sour she's kidnapped by Fishcake, one of Gargle's men. Hester and Tom go after them, joined by Freya and Caul but find that the world has changed while they were away - under the Stalker Fang, the Green Storm has inflicted heavy losses on the Traction Cities and forced them into a retreat using stalker technology.
Hester and Tom's search takes them to Brighton, a floating Traction City, where they discover that Wren and Fishcake have been sold into slavery, and the city's mayor, Pennyroyal, is a successful author, retelling the adventures of PREDATOR'S GOLD with himself as the hero. Meanwhile, Dr Zero, the Stalker Fang's personal physician, has found and resurrected Shrike, and her plans for him that will change everything ...
Much of what is so great about the previous books is repeated in this one. The story is tightly plotted, Reeve maintains his ruthless approach to his characters, and there are neat nods to the events in the previous books. What's not so great is Wren. She's a bit of a ninny - naive, wilful and not nearly as smart as she thinks she is. Ordinarily this wouldn't be a problem but Reeve uses her as a plot device more than as a character of her own right and she pales in comparison to Hester, who remains emotionally conflicted, ruthless and fascinating. Reeve gives Wren a romance angle with Theo, a failed Green Storm suicide pilot, but there's not enough of that on the page for it to hold the attention. Also missing is the background for Wren's conflict with her mother - Reeve indicates that it's about a boy, which is oddly superficial for the depth of antagonism between them.
Fortunately, the conclusion more than makes up for the niggles. Heartbreaking and horrific, it closes the story but does so in a way that will definitely leave you desperate for more.
on 29 March 2005
After reading Mortal Engines and Predator's Gold (the first two books in the series), I was pleased to find that there was a new one out. Infernal Devices had to be very good to top them, and on the whole, it is.
The story is set around fifteen years later than the previous books, with Tom and Hester as adults. Hester's character takes a very interesting twist, with her lust for killing bad people still there, and she sometimes wishes that her fifteen year old daughter had never been born.
If you read predator's gold, you will know that Hester becomes pregnant with Tom's baby at the end of the book. They named their daughter Wren, and she serves as the main character for the first half of the third book. The story is that Wren is bored with Anchorage, the small static settlement in the lost continent of the Americas. She longs for an adventure and finds it when the Lost Boys pull up on the beach led by Gargle who was a young boy in the other books. They are looking for the Tin Book, a legendary book of Anchorage, and they lure Wren into stealing it for them. Wren decides to stow away with them and she ends up a slave in Brighton, a floating settlement. Hester and Tom find out about her leaving and chase her.
I gave it only four stars because Tom's character is too stereotypical and you never really read about his feelings. But the main reason is that it doesn't really seem like a proper adventure. The most part of the book are set in Brighton, and there is that great sense of Journey that was felt in Predator's Gold.
Those petty complaints aside, this is an amazing, breathtaking, riveting read that I just couldn't put down. I'm twelve years old and I thought that it would be good for about 11-15 year olds. I highly recommmend this book. Excellent work by Philip Reeve once again.
Now I agree with some of the reviewers here that this ain't in the same heart-stopping league as the rest of the quartet. But that reveal in the end (and I am itching to tell you what it is but ... no, you'll have to read it) just puts it up there with five stars for me. I didn't see it coming!
What was wrong with Infernal Devices? Nothing ... it's eminently readable, page-turning as usual. Well, maybe the jokey names were a bit much, but then the setting was Brighton as traction city. It had it coming.
What was right? Well, so much - we go on and on about what a terrific world Philip Reeve weaves - but the characters! What sets Mortal Engines apart from other fantasy adventures is the emotional depth and complexity of his characters; I love the way they are all shades of grey and continue to surprise, delight and dismay into the third book. I might even have shed a little tear for Shrike who has to be my favourite character ... and Hester. Oh no, Hester.