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.

It’s hard to believe that it’s seventeen years since ‘Mortal Engines’, Philip Reeve’s epic, steampunk flavoured adventure first met its public. The book was a success straight away winning the Smarties Book Award and being nominated for the 2002 Whitbread award. For many of us the book has become a real ‘touchstone text’. Some of us remember eagerly lapping up each instalment of the quartet – and then the three prequels – as they came out, others treasure memories of reading the stories to our children at bedtime.

This month sees publication of ‘Night Flights’ a set of stories that flesh out the back story of Anna Fang – a key character in the series. Later this year we will finally get to see the film adaptation that Peter Jackson and his Lord of the Rings team have been working on – the footage released so far makes it look absolutely epic. I for one just cannot wait to see Reeve’s world brought to life on screen.

All of this makes the summer of 2018 a brilliant time to be reading ‘Mortal Engines’ together as a twitter reading group. Whether you have read the entire series over and over, or have resisted the temptation to get sucked into the world of Municipal Darwinism, you are welcome to join us through a month of chat, laughs, sketching, modelling and celebration as we travel with Tom and Hester on their journeys through London and beyond.

When is #SummerEngines happening?

Formally we’ll be convening from Saturday 28th July to Saturday 25th August, there’s nothing wrong with joining in and using the hashtag in the build up however and I wouldn’t be surprised if the conversation rumbles on for a while afterwards too.

Do I have to have read the books already?

No. We’ll assume that you haven’t read it yet and we’ll try not to spoiler the plot or characters for you. The book has roughly 300 pages so for the first week we’ll chat quite generally, in the second week we’ll assume you’ve read at least the first 100 pages or so (up to the end of Chapter 12), in the third week we’ll assume you’ve read about the first 200 pages (to the end of Chapter 22) and after that we’ll assume you’ve read to the end of the book. We won’t set a daily reading challenge, experience tells me most people don’t read that way. If you’re at all like me you’ll probably find that once you start the book you won’t want to put it down till it’s done.

Am I supposed to be involved every day?

Of course not, quite apart from anything I expect lots of people will be having holidays over the time #SummerEngines is running and it would be fairly tragic if you spent the whole time tapping at your phone chatting to strangers about a children’s book. Unless you really want to. Most people will drop in and drop out as the month goes on. That’s fine. Just don’t leave me all by myself ok?

What sorts of things will we do?

Every day I will tweet a thought, question, challenge, provocation or non sequitur. What you do with these is entirely up to you. I hope to have threads of discussion, threads of memories, threads that ramble way off the subject, sketches, Lego models, songs – whatever you can bring to the party is ok with me.

Does Philip Reeve know about this.

He does indeed and he seems maybe flattered and possibly a bit nonplussed by the whole thing. We won’t ‘@ him in’ as he’s got rather a lot on and we will maybe be a bit puppyish and tedious but I suspect he might drop in from time to time. Philip has offered to partipate in a twitter chat late in August. Presuming we find a time that suits to make this happen we’ll focus the chat on the character of Anna Fang as she’s been in Philip’s head recently due to the publication of ‘Flight Nights’ which explores her back story. If you enjoy Mortal Engines you might enjoy reading ‘Night Flights’ ahead of the chat. We’ll confirm a date and time for that a little closer to the time.

How do I get involved? 

If you’ve read this far you’re already involved! To stay involved follow @MrEFinch on twitter, check out the #SummerEngines and #MortalReaders hashtags to see who else is getting involved (why not give them a follow too?) and maybe get hold of the book if you don’t have it already. No one will judge if you start reading before the starting gun fires!