Predator’s Gold: The action keeps rolling

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsPhilip Reeve Hungry City Predator's GoldPredator’s Gold by Philip Reeve

We Will Unleash a Storm that will Scour the Earth.

It had been a while since I’d read Philip Reeve’s first installment in the Hungry City quartet, and so my memories of the events that happened in Mortal Engines were a little hazy. However, nothing could make me forget the imaginative post-apocalyptic world that Reeve had created, in which massive Traction-Cities trundled across the wastelands according to the laws of Municipal Darwinism; eating any smaller city that crossed their paths. There was a massive death-toll by the end of the book, in which many of the principal characters had been killed (to the point of desensitisation), but our protagonists Tom and Hester managed to ride off into the sunset in the battered old airship “Jenny Haniver.”

Predator’s Gold is set several years later, where we find that Tom and the horribly-scarred Hester are still together, taking on passengers and cargo to make a living. One such passenger is Professor Pennyroyal, a pompous explorer and adventurer with a penchant for stretching the truth (think Gilderoy Lockhart) who join the couple as they flee to the Ice Wastes and are saved by the Traction City of Anchorage. The city is ruled over by the young Freya Rasmussen who makes a radical decision to return to the Dead Continent in the hopes of escaping the dual threats of both predatory Traction Cities and the Anti-Traction League.

Unbeknownst to her, her city is being discreetly ransacked by a trio of ‘Lost Boys’ who answer to the mysterious thief-lord Uncle (who as another reviewer pointed out, deliberately bears less resemblance to the carefree boys of Peter Pan than to the wretches of Oliver Twist under the tyranny of Fagin) a man who has his own game to play in the rising tensions. But when Hester witnesses a foolish kiss between Tom and Freya she makes an equally foolish decision to betray the city. From here the action keeps rolling: escapes, intrigue, kidnapping, betrayals, battles… you name it and its here. As an adventure story, I would be hard-pressed to recommend anything more exciting than this.

Most interesting is Reeves use of political agendas and intrigue. The world is roughly translated into two groups: the Traction Cities and the Static Communities, who are bitterly at odds. The Static communities (headed by the Anti-Traction League) despise the parasitical scavenging cities, whilst the roaming Cities are arrogantly casual about their allegiance to Darwinism and their right to any prey that comes their way. Naturally, one would expect to be on the Anti-Traction League’s side (after all, the thought of consuming smaller cities sounds barbaric to our contemporary ears), and yet the fact that Tom is a citizen of a Traction City and Reeves’s deliberate admiration for their roving spirit throws the whole scenario into a hefty shade of grey.

Plus, if we really analysis the situation, is there really a difference between the Traction Cities and the phenomena of the Western world’s colonisation across the rest of the world (and its current insistence on globalisation)? Add to the fact that a branch of the Anti-Traction League — the Green Storm — is undoubtedly a terrorist network whose members wear “the shiny, smug expressions of people who know they are right,” and the book suddenly takes on a level of depth and allusion that you would never expect in what appears to be a simple adventure story.

Neither the Traction Cities nor the Static Communities are right (in fact most of the time they are very much in the wrong), and the conflict of the book is not which side wins, but whether Tom and Hester can survive the conflict that goes on between them, living long enough to make a decent life for themselves. This is a great set of books: read them!


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REBECCA FISHER, with us since January 2008, earned a Masters degree in literature at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Her thesis included a comparison of how C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman each use the idea of mankind’s Fall from Grace to structure the worldviews presented in their fantasy series. Rebecca is a firm believer that fantasy books written for children can be just as meaningful, well-written and enjoyable as those for adults, and in some cases, even more so. Rebecca lives in New Zealand. She is the winner of the 2015 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best SFF Fan Writer.

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