I'm working my way through the Mortal Engines books. I'm still struggling with the concepts of Municipal Darwinism.

It often seems that static settlements on the great hunting ground are pretty much done for. However, landmines are effective against tracked vehicles (OK they would have to be pretty big landmines), you could probably dig big tank traps that the treads could not traverse. While these would be big engineering projects, they would not be as big as making a whole city move.

I know the anti-traction league has a wall, so the concept exists at least. But it would seem that static settlements could do more than hope not to be eaten.

Is this discussed anywhere in the books (or the prequels), I'm enjoying the books, but I have not quite bought that the idea of moving cities is necessary.

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    To build a defense large enough to fend off a city, you'd have to build it as large as the city... and therefore, probably would need the manpower or resources large enough that you'd be as big as the city anyway. And now that your defenses are known, a bigger fish can know where they are and come along. (I am admittedly not familiar enough with the books to give more than a speculation comment, but based on the movie trailer that seems reasonable).
    – Radhil
    Jun 14 '18 at 13:12
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    @Radhil - I've not read the books, but I'm wondering why people don't just build their cities into the sides of mountains or cliff faces or along inhospitable passes that motorised vehicles can't traverse
    – Valorum
    Jun 14 '18 at 14:16
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    What I don't understand is how smaller cities/villages can't see/detect the larger ones from miles away and get the hell out of dodge. Probably a seismograph would be a nice tool to detect a moving city of the size of London even beyond horizon!
    – Hans Olo
    Jun 14 '18 at 14:20
  • @Valorum there are a few references in the books to some static villages in cliffs. However, they are vulnerable to air (usually dirigible) attacks. I am looking forward to reading any existing prequels to see how the cities got constructed.
    – Verdan
    Dec 12 '18 at 18:22

It's been quite a long time since I've read the Mortal Engine Quartet, and I'm basing this answer off my memory of the books.
I think the main reason why static settlements near The Hunting Ground don't survive very long is because of the sheer overwhelming power at the disposal of traction cities. I can't think of many instances when a static settlement was consumed by a traction city, but there are a plethora of traction vs traction action scenarios. The thing is, a traction city already has a hard enough time fending off another of its own kind. A static settlement is basically a traction city disabled beyond motility; easy prey.
However, there are instances when a "static" city successfully fended off a traction city. When Airhaven needed repairs, it was settled down on an island, the surrounding body of water supposedly a good boundary for predator cities. Airhaven was attacked, however, by one of London's satellites cities, equipped to traverse the water. If memory serves me correctly, Airhaven had the firepower to completely disable the attacking city while it traversing from water to island shore.
So, basically, massive cities like London (and that one city London destroyed with MEDUSA [can't remember the name]) are nearly unstoppable forces against static settlements—they are literally moving mountains of metal. However, if you're incoming predator is at an inherent disadvantage while approaching you (perhaps a steep incline, body of water, etc.) and you have the necessary armaments, a static settlement could hold it's own.
Edit: upon revisiting the question, I think the main challenge of a static settlement would be acquiring the resources to fight off what is effectively a hoard of metal mountains trying to eat you. The Shield Wall is made of the deck plates of fallen traction cities, and I imagine a static settlement near The Hunting Ground would employ something similar, using their fallen enemies as shields against future assailants. Regardless, a static settlement needs resources to keep up the perpetual fight (with all that metal, they make an attractive target), and I'm not quite sure how a static settlement would acquire those resources. I remember thinking about this while reading those books. I couldn't see why a static settlement couldn't/wouldn't employ motile cities to defend and fetch resources for the static city.
Anyway, those are my thoughts. I hope I was helpful!

  • I would like to add that Reeve explores a lot with pre-conceived connotations within the books. The people in London believe that the anti-tractionists are barbarians who live in squalid conditions without the luxuries of a traction settlement. Tom has been told this his whole life, and indeed the entire city of London has been indoctrinated to believe this. When he arrives in Batmunkh Gompa he discovers that the people there react negatively towards him because they all reject the morals of a "Town-eat-town world" and want settlements to work cohesively.
    – Aric
    Sep 5 '18 at 10:40
  • The point I'm making with this is that Tom and others have been misinformed by High London and told that the static settlements are measly and weak, when in fact some of them like the Shield Wall are incredibly fortified; they have just never seen it for themselves.
    – Aric
    Sep 5 '18 at 10:41
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    However much firepower a moving city can generate, a stationary city of the same energy generation capacity should be able to match, because they don't have to move their whole city every day.
    – Adamant
    Dec 10 '18 at 3:01

Static defense does work; at large enough scales. The anti-traction league couldn't be a thing if they didn't, but those scales are immense, as large or larger than the traction cities themselves. The reason static defenses aren't used in the Hunting Grounds is that there are only two sizes of settlements; the very large and the quite small. The smaller settlements don't have enough energy and resources to build static defenses big enough to stand off the big cities and those cities have an active interest in breaking down any such systems that are created to allow them to travel and hunt wherever they wish. Static settlements on the edges of the Hunting Ground simply don't last long enough to undertake such huge engineering tasks, there are too many predators around.

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