Books: Infernal Devices

>> Monday, April 3, 2006

I almost never read sequels.

It's a failing of mine, I admit it. Loved Ender's Game, but I never read the award-winning books that followed. Loved Dune, but never read the myriad other chapters in that saga. There's even a very famous trilogy (the first book of which I've actually taught in a middle school classroom!) that I'm embarassed to confess I have only read books one and two of. (Too embarassed to even name the trilogy!)

I have many reasons for not reading sequels to books I love, but a few come up again and again. Sometimes, I'm afraid the follow-ups won't hold a candle to the original book, so I just skip them. Many times I just want a change, so I opt for the new and different world of an unrelated book. Often, when the story of the first book wraps itself up, I am so satisfied that I don't feel compelled to pick up book two. (In the case of my embarassing omission, above, it was because I could not bear the end of the series. And now it's been so long, I'd have to reread them all to get back into it!)

Then there are books like Philip Reeve's Mortal Engines, which I loved. Loved so much, in fact, that I actually read its sequel. And the book after that! Book two, Predator's Gold, was just as good if not better than the first, and so I've picked up Infernal Devices and now its sequel, A Darkling Plain, which I have yet to read. This is almost unprecedented!

The premise of these books is almost preposterous - to survive a nuclear winter, the cities of Europe and Northern Africa equip themselves with gigantic treads and troll the "Hunting Grounds" of the Mediterranean coast, feeding on smaller cities and towns in what has become known as "Municipal Darwinism." Once you accept that marvelously ingenious and amusing conceit (and oh, how fun it is to accept) the book becomes an incredible roller coaster ride of action, adventure, social commentary, and human drama. And the death toll is surprisingly sizable - just when you begin to like someone, they are ripped from the pages. Our protagonists at times seem merely to be the last characters standing.

These books are "ripping yarns." They exist for almost no other purpose than to highlight that most noble of genres, "pulp fiction," and I love them dearly for that. Yes, there are recurring themes of love, loss, and death, but at its heart this series is a roller coaster of cliffhangers and chilling events that promises to leave no young reader unenthralled.

The "Hungry City Chronicles" promises to end with book four, at which point I will finally be released from my horrible servitude, and once again be allowed to read books without worrying about their sequels.

That is, if I can bear to see the series end by reading the last installment . . .


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