The Municipal Darwinism concept from Mortal Engines explained

02 March 2023
Have you ever heard of Municipal Darwinism? 

This is the concept that drives the world of Mortal Engines, both in the book and movie. The idea is essentially a riff on Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection, but with a twist - it's a zero-sum game, which means that there can be only one winner, much like in The Highlander.

The world of Mortal Engines is one where traction cities, massive mobile communities that follow their own laws and customs, roam the earth consuming smaller cities and using their resources for fuel or repurposing. People who lived in captured cities can be enslaved or even eaten as a source of protein. 

It's a brutal, cutthroat world where might makes right, and the stronger cities prey upon the weaker ones.

mortal engines whALE

The theory behind Municipal Darwinism is that it's a predator-prey cycle.

 If the bigger city is faster than the smaller one, it will catch and consume it. But if the smaller city is faster, it can evade the larger city and even attack it. This cycle has been going on for thousands of years since the "Sixty Minute War" and is a reminder that this kind of Darwinism is not a sustainable way of living in the long term.

However, there are some who do not subscribe to this way of life. 

Living in hills and islands, they seek to form self-sustaining cultures that don't rely on the predatory traction cities. 

The Anti-Traction League, also known as the Green Storm, hates these mobile cities and seeks to sabotage and destroy them in order to protect their own territories.

The title of Mortal Engines refers to the fact that all cities' engines are indeed mortal, as eventually, they will consume everything and fail. 

This is also true for the humans who live on them. In fact, the title "Mortal Engines" is a direct reference to a quote from William Shakespeare's Othello.


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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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