Favourite SF books — Paul Collins
by George Ivanoff - December 11th, 2012
Yesterday I wrote about favourite science fiction books. Authors Michael Pryor and Simon Haynes got to put their two cents worth in. (see “Favourite SF books – Pryor & Haynes“) Today I am joined by author Paul Collins, who will be telling us about his favourite science fiction book.
Paul is no stranger to science fiction. He’s written lots of it, including the Earthborn Wars trilogy and his latest series, The Maximus Black Files. The first in the series, Mole Hunt, was published last year and got a slew of rave reviews. This year saw the publication of book two, Dyson’s Drop, which has also proven to be a runaway success. Fans are now eagerly awaiting the third in the series, Il Kedra, which will be out next year.
But what is Paul’s favourite science fiction book?
Asked to talk about my favourite book I’d have an argument with myself. Artemis Fowl or Tom Natsworthy? So the winner turns out to be Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines.
Most of the cities in England are hungrily trundling across the landscape, eating up smaller cities and towns for old tech and spare parts. The citizens of these fallen cities are either killed or enslaved.
Lowly third class apprentice Tom Natsworthy is unceremoniously thrown off London town – down a waste chute, no less – after having the misfortune to meet would-be assassin Hester Shaw. Together they must find their way back to London, each of course for different reasons. Much like Arthur Dent hitchhiking aboard a spacecraft, Tom and Hester climb aboard Tunbridge Wheels, only to find it’s a pirate town run by one Chrysler Peavey, whose daughter is called Cortina, of course!
There’s a strong cast of protagonists. Among my favourites are the hideously disfigured Hester Shaw and an Oriental aviatrix called Miss Anna Fang, both of whom remind me of another favourite character from years gone by, Modesty Blaise. The latter faced many villains as Reeve’s characters do. Foremost of these are the Stalkers, seven feet tall with metal armour; once human but now transformed into the living dead (think Terminator). Reeve delights in sudden gusts of humour at the least expected moments. Introducing his Stalkers he says in part: “Its round glass eye gave it a startled look, as if it had never got over the horrible surprise of what had happened to it”. In another scene, a Stalker called Shrike meets his comeuppance: “Is it . . . dead?” asks Tom Natsworthy, to which Hester replies: “A town just ran over him. I shouldn’t think he’s very well . . .”
A secret energy weapon called MEDUSA (from the Sixty Minute War) has been discovered by archaeologist Thaddeus Valentine (Hester’s mother, actually, but Valentine killed her to obtain it), and now London is roaring across the Hunting Ground to take on the static enclaves of the Anti-Traction League in Shan Guo (not everyone it seems wants to uproot their homes and live the life of gypsies).
Reeve does commit a cardinal sin so far as this reader is concerned. He kills the dog, or the equivalent of one. I always think that’s a cheap trick to gain reader sympathy, used most notably in fantasy novels.
Originality, humour, action, adventure, greed, clashing civilisations, betrayal, murder, pirates ─ it’s got it all. (Not to be restricted to teenagers!)
It might be a town-eat-town world, but I’m glad Reeve kept it rolling to a quartet. Three more to go for me!
Mortal Engines has been on my must-read-someday pile for ages. After reading Paul’s comments I may have to move it to the top of the pile.
Catch ya later, George
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