Night Flights (2018) by Philip Reeve is a collection of three short stories set in the world of the MORTAL ENGINES QUARTET (also known as the HUNGRY CITY CHRONICLES), and focuses on the character of Anna Fang, a fearless aviatrix. Its timing seemed to be connected to the release of Peter Jackson’s filmic adaptation of Mortal Engines, the first book in the series, and Reeve’s touching dedication at the front of the book confirmed this. It reads: “To Jihae, who plays Anna Fang with such style and grace that I realized she needed some more stories.” Aww.
Set within a framing device of Anna going about her daily business, she recalls three adventures of her past. “Frozen Heart” tells of her tragic childhood: the deaths of her parents, her enslavement in the bowels of Arkangel, and her eventual liberation onboard the Jenny Haniver, an airship she helps build and design. But of course, escape is easier said than done.
In “Traction-City Blues”, Anna lands in London with a plan to sabotage the great city, only to find herself underestimating the power of the creature she hopes to find: a Stalker. Forming an uneasy alliance with Sergeant Anders, a good-hearted policeman, the two work together to eliminate the threat.
Finally, “Teeth of the Sea” details a period of Anna’s life in which she’s working as an intelligence agent for the Anti-Traction League, and her misgivings about the latest assignment they’ve given her: assassinating the Sultana of Pulau Pinang. There are rumours that she murdered her husband and created alliances with floating towns, and the League aren’t happy about it. But as Anna begins her investigation, she finds out things aren’t always as they seem …
The whole thing is a wonderful return to the dangerous, exciting world of Mortal Engines, which hasn’t been visited since Scrivener’s Moon in 2011. Of course, it’s not a good starting place if you’ve never read any of the MORTAL ENGINES books before, as Reeve assumes you know the basics of Municipal Darwinism, the Anti-Traction League, and the massive, mobile cities that roam the post-apocalyptic earth.
Ian McQue provides the illustrations: stark, simple black and white images that capture the vastness of the world and the personalities of the characters. And of course, there are a few shout-outs to characters from previous books, from the likes of Arlo Thursday, Stalker Strike, and Tom and Hester in the final pages.
I loved it; I just wish there was more of it!