How the traction cities of Mortal Engines work

02 March 2023
Let's take a closer look at the fascinating world of traction cities and towns in Mortal Engines without getting too lost in the technical details + let's also suspend our sense of belief!

Despite the idea of giant mobile cities roaming the Earth for 10,000 years seeming far-fetched, we should suspend our disbelief and accept that they exist. Traction cities like London are colossal machines spanning kilometers that carry entire societies, each with their own social hierarchy that ensures they continue to function.

These cities were created after the 60 Minute War left the planet barren, to transport surviving populations to safer areas. The prequel novels, starting with Fever Crumb, reveal how Nicholas Quirke oversaw their development based on the concepts of Auric Godshawk.

Traction cities are enormous metropolises that rely on giant internal fuel engines to move on giant wheels or caterpillar tracks. Hungry cities like London have populations in the millions, while smaller cities, villages, and hamlets are propelled by smaller engines or sails.

traction city

Cities such as London hunt smaller cities to tear them apart for resources and fuel, which in turn hunt towns, and so on. This is known as 'Municipal Darwinism'. 

But how does the societal structure of London work?

London models itself on a Victorian-era society and is divided into four major and several minor Guilds. The Engineers maintain the machines essential for London's survival, while the Historians, like Chudleigh Pomery, collect and preserve valuable and often dangerous artifacts. Navigators plot the course of London, and the Merchants manage its economy. 

An elected official, who is also the head of the Guild of Engineers, officially governs London. Currently, it is Magnus Crome, who is far from magnanimous.

St. Paul's Cathedral is the only building known to have survived the Sixty Minute War and sits atop London, playing a crucial role in the movie's plot as The Medusa Weapon (revealed near the end of the novel).

When a bigger city wants to capture a smaller one, it chases its prey, increasing its engine's speed and aiming to catch it as quickly as possible to conserve fuel. Most cities have "Jaws" attachments to capture their prey and drag them into the Gut. London's hooks capture its prey, dragging it towards the jaws.

The "Great Under Tier" in London comprises hangars and harvesting districts where prey is dismantled and looted for resources, including humans found in the captured cities. In some cities, the inhabitants of captured cities are integrated into the predator city's population, while in others, they are taken as slaves and made to work. The Nabisco Shkin Corporation, which openly buys and sells slaves, is a prominent feature in later novels.

In the movie, London measures 2.5 kilometers long. 


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About the author Jimmy Jangles

My name is Jimmy Jangles, the founder of The Astromech. I have always been fascinated by the world of science fiction, especially the Star Wars universe, and I created this website to share my love for it with fellow fans.

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