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"One could imagine a very ascetic sort of life ... where the body is ignored. This is something I've played with in my books, where people hate to be reminded sometimes that they have bodies, they find it very slow and tedious."
- William Gibson

Traction City  
  Cities re-engineered as enormous, lumbering machines.  

A Traction City can be huge - an "Urbivore" with millions of inhabitants, to villages that move using small engines or sails.

Big Traction Cities are built in tiers like a wedding cake; the poor live next to the tracks and engines on the bottom, and the upper classes enjoy their mansions at the top of the city.

It was a dark, blustery afternoon in spring, and the city of London was chasing a small mining town across the dried-out bed of the old North Sea.

In happier times, London would never have bothered with such feeble prey. The great Traction City had once spent its days hunting far bigger towns than this, ranging north as far as the edge of the Ice Wastes and south to the shores of the Mediterranean. But lately prey of any kind had started to grow scarce, and some of the larger cities had begun to look hungrily at London...

...lookouts on the high watchtowers spied the mining town, gnawing at the salt flats twenty miles ahead... [the] mining town saw the danger and turned tail, but already the huge caterpillar tracks under London were starting to roll fostering faster. Soon the city was lumbering in hot pursuit, a moving mountain of metal which rose in seven tiers like layers of a wedding cake, the lower levels wreathed in engine smoke, the villas of the rich gleaming white on the higher decks, and above it all the cross on top of St Pauls Cathedral glinting gold, 2000 feet above the ruined earth.


(Traction city)

From Mortal Engines, by Philip Reeve.
Published by EOS in 2003
Additional resources -

Most cities have attachments called "Jaws" to catch prey and drag it into the Gut of the city. Here the prey is stripped, melted down and used as fuel. Its inhabitants then become members of the predator city, or even taken as slaves.

For a much earlier take on the basic idea, see the steam-powered houses from Henry Loudon's 1828 classic The Mummy! A Tale of the Twenty-Second Century.

Thanks to Alex Mair for contributing this item.

Comment/Join this discussion ( 2 ) | RSS/XML | Blog This |

Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Mortal Engines
  More Ideas and Technology by Philip Reeve
  Tech news articles related to Mortal Engines
  Tech news articles related to works by Philip Reeve

Traction City-related news articles:
  - Garbage-Eating Factories Now, Voracious Cities Later
  - CV08 Suburb-Eating Robot Concept
  - EATR - DARPA's Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot
  - Very Large Structure - A Megamachine

Articles related to Living Space
Driverless Hotel Rooms Predicted In 1828
Humans Could Take Up A LOT Less Space
Oh Yes, We're Building The Rotating Tower In Dubai
Real-Life Macau or Ghost In The Shell

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