The highly anticipated film adaptation of Mortal Engines, Philip Reeve’s 2001 YA novel set in a futuristic steampunk London, will arrive in theaters December 14, co-written and produced by Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings) and released by Universal Pictures. To whet fans’ appetites for the big-screen event, Scholastic U.S. and Scholastic U.K. have announced a publishing program inspired by the project. This news dovetails with the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, where Reeve is in attendance.
Leading off the lineup is the new title Night Flights: A Mortal Engines Collection (Scholastic Press, Aug. 28), a collection of short stories spotlighting the daring airship pilot Anna Fang, who figures prominently in both Mortal Engines (Book One) and the new movie. David Levithan, v-p and publisher and editorial director at Scholastic, who publishes the series in the U.S., said, “The movie has had the fantastic by-product of inspiring Philip to return to the world for Night Flights, which features a character we think is going to be a breakout fan favorite from the film.”
The four books comprising Reeve’s Mortal Engines Quartet will also be outfitted with new paperback covers in the months leading up to the movie’s debut. And the official tie-in, Mortal Engines: Movie Tie-in Edition, will be published on August 28.
Reeve has often said that writing Mortal Engines took a number of years because he was working on it during fits and starts in between illustration jobs. “I started coming up with the ideas in 1989/1990, and it wasn’t finished and published until 2001!” he stated in a 2010 interview with Historian.com. Reflecting on what he thinks makes the Mortal Engines Quartet click with fans, Reeve told PW, “What I was aiming for in the books was an invented world which is fantastical but has obvious echoes of our own, and which is both serious and humorous. It’s a real magpie’s nest of history, technology, drama, jokes—but I hope that appeals to readers. It certainly appealed to me.”
In addition, he believes the key to hooking readers for the long haul is character development. “A made-up world is only as interesting as the characters who inhabit it,” he explained. “Most of my characters are pretty flawed and imperfect, and I think people connect with that, and enjoy reading about their journeys, and discovering this strange future world through their eyes.”
Levithan recalled his initial encounter with Reeve’s work. “When I first read Mortal Engines, I was astonished by the remarkably inventive calibrations of Philip’s world building and the fierce power of his characters,” he said. “It seemed that only an equally visionary talent like Peter Jackson could ever translate the world and its characters onto the screen, and then Peter Jackson signed on to do just that.”
Levithan believes there are a few key ingredients that draw readers into Reeve’s stories. “The entire series has done just what you want [in] the best speculative fiction—it’s become more relevant and more resonant with every book and every year,” he said. “In our current global landscape that seems to shift on a daily, if not hourly, basis, all of the Mortal Engines books provide a profoundly important engagement in issues of power and self. They’re also fun as hell to read. I very much hope our world does not turn into the world of Mortal Engines—but I am grateful that we have [that] world to explore from the safety of the page.”