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on May 15, 2014
Seriously, buy it now and read it. Get it for your teens or young adult readers. I will regret the possibilty that there may be young adults in this world who will not read the masterpiece that is Railsea.

Do you like intriguing worlds? Truly unique settings and a premise that, while harking back to literature classics manages to be at the same time unique? Do you want to adventure through a truly strange land full of interesting cultures and characters, all half explained, letting your imagination run wild filling in what you don't know through clues masterfully intertwined into a narrative as wonderful as it is unique?

Of course you do. That's why you're reading this review as opposed to watching television.

So buy the book.
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on October 20, 2015
Love everything I've read by the author. I especially like how every book is a different genre but you can still recognize the author's style. I think this in particular will appeal to a larger audience than a lot of Mieville's works as well as his typical steampunk/monster fans.
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VINE VOICEon July 22, 2012
The rails stretch forever, a tangled mass of rails, switches and gauge changes stretching over poisoned land. The railsea is inhabited by dangerous beasts in turn hunting and hunted by men on trains. Angels, it is said, maintain the tracks, but these angels are no cute cherub--instead, they'll destroy anything that gets in their way. Sham Yes ap Soorap has, unwillingly, gotten a job on one of those hunting trains. His captain is one of those with a "philosophy." Captain Naphi, with her artificial arm, hunts an ivory-colored great mole and will allow nothing to stand between her and her obsession.

A chance encounter with a wrecked train gives Sham a clue to something he never could have imagined. One of the photos he recovers from the wreckage shows a single straight rail line. This is impossible in the railsea, and contrary to every religion preached. He becomes as obsessed with finding the truth behind this photo as his captain is with her mole.

Author China Mieville writes some of the most original and creative speculative fiction available today and RAILSEA provides flashes of this genius. The secret behind the railsea gradually emerges, and the most obvious Moby Dick references fade as Sham finds himself involved with ancient "salvage", with pirates, and with the secrets behind the entire railsea. Speaking of the railsea, Mieville uses the "&" symbol everywhere the word "and" would normally appear. It's a symbol for the interconnected mesh of the railsea. It's also amazing that such a little change could create some reading awkwardness but every time I hit this word, but it did.

Overall, RAILSEA is an above-average fantasy/sf story with sime intriguing social messages, a clever retake of Melville's Moby Dick (Mieville/Melville--is there a connection?). For me, though, this story lacked the really compelling imagination of some of Mieville's other works. Compared to Un Lun Dun or The City and the City, for example, there just isn't a lot here. I'll always go out of my way to grab the latest by China Mieville and RAILSEA isn't a disappointment... but it isn't quite up to Mieville's best, either.
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on July 30, 2012
Set in a world where sailors travel across an intricate network of rails, Railsea starts out as a sort of sci fi Moby Dick. At the beginning of the novel, young Sham is a doctor's assistant on his first voyage on a moletrain, a train that travels the railsea attempting to harpoon giant moles and other subterranean critters. A chance encounter sets Sham and later the entire crew on a different sort of chase.

At first, Railsea was a little bit hard to get into. Though the writing is not terribly complex, Mieville uses a lot of vocabulary specific to the world he has imagined without explaining what these new words mean. For the first few chapters, I felt like I was reading a mad lib created by non-English speakers. Mieville also chooses to use quirky character names, so I felt like I was stumbling upon two or three unfamiliar words in each sentence. As I became more familiar with the vocabulary and the characters, the book became easier to read. The other thing that made this book a slow-started was the use of "&" instead of "and." This was particularly challenging when the author chose to begin a sentence with an ampersand.

Once I got used to Mieville's style in this book, I thoroughly enjoyed the story. The twists and turns of the characters' fate were unexpected. I would push myself to read a few extra chapters before bedtime each night because I just had to know what would happen next. By the end of the novel, I felt like I understood the world of Railsea and, personally, I would love to read more books set in this universe, perhaps a prequel or a sequel, or even just short stories that further flesh out the characters.
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According to Mieville, our world may well be followed by the ones of Railsea. Once again Mieville has constructed a world replete and fantastic. It has it's own topography, morals, and mythology. The known land masses are shore side to the vast stretches of dangerous foul earth overlaid by tangles and snares of rails - the Railsea. The under sky is safe but the upper sky is also foul. It is full of noxious gasses where terrifying beasts of legend live.

Scattered across this world is salvage. It can lie in layers of ancient civilizations: paper, metal, computer....Sham's heart lies with the mysteries of salvage. And he has heard word of the unthinkable land beyond the rails. Where did the rails begin? (We had a clue in an earlier novel: trains that laid track before them as they traveled.)

To me the philosophy ( as Mieville uses it, an obsession for a certain meaning) is the world that exists entire in these pages. I am a true sucker for a created world. Mieville makes certain sly references to Moby Dick and his nearly named Melville. But there it is a destination born of his amazing mind. I invite you on this journey to another world, and maybe one to come.
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on November 20, 2012
Miéville once again shows that he is a true master of fantasy in "Railsea." Not the elves and magic and dragons brand of fantasy, but truly imaginative fiction that leaves the tropes behind. The railsea--an ocean of sand, populated by burrowing monsters, criss-crossed by endless railroad tracks, and plied by various locomotive crews in place of maritime explorers. Giant molerat hunters take the place of whalers, hunters of other varieties other fishermen. Salvors recover the detritus of the present and the past as sometimes treasure-hunters, sometimes archaeologists. And pirates are pirates. Islands of rock harbor civilization in an otherwise inhospitable land--the railsea home to all manner of monsters and the sky and mountains the polluted and poisonous home to angry and mutated creatures. A mythology of fallible gods and their conflict in some nebulous past that gave birth to the railsea and poisoned the sky suffuses it all.

Miéville's prose is elegant as usual, truly a pleasure to read, and as rococo as his setting. The vocabulary may not send readers to their dictionaries as often as some of the author's other works, which consideration, combined with the fact that the main character is a teenage boy, may be why some have classified "Railsea" as YA, but rest assured that adult readers will enjoy the book as much or more than "young adult" readers.

As a journey of discovery, much of the enjoyment of the story comes from exploring this strange world and learning things about it that even the characters don't begin by knowing, so this review will refrain from discussing the plot. Instead, some questions to consider: What if there were many Ahabs seeking each their own white whales? What created the railsea? Is there an end to the railsea, and if so, what lies beyond? What is the nature of Heaven?
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on July 5, 2012
The Railsea is a network of tracks and switches that connects the post-apocalyptic landscape. Trains provide the sole means for humans to traverse this landscape; salvors, those who salvage the remnants of the past, Pirates, the rail-navy that defends the sovereignty of various land isle states, and molers -those trains that hunt the moldywarps, giant moles that burrow beneath the fallow landscapes of what remains of earth.

The Medes is one such mole train. Captain Naphi, an emotionally crippled women with a prosthetic arm hunts the moldywarps, but is really obsessed with only one- Moldy-Jack, the enormous pale colored mole that took her arm and her sanity. The journey of the Medes is seen through the eyes of the young surgeon's assistant who has been essentially indentured to the mole train by his uncles who were entrusted with his care after Sham lost his parents.

It all sounds too familiar, but the connections to the other Melville's classic is really circumstantial. The Railsea is in many ways about Ahab's obsession except on the Railsea most everyone has such an obsession and they are called, their "philosophies" that which moves them so much it informs their lives and totally consumes them.

Sham encounters his "philosophy" when the Medes comes upon the wreckage of an unusual train and Sham is forced to slip through a small opening into the cabin. Their he finds the equivalent of a camera, and on that camera are images that may show the path off of the Railsea. Finding the end of the tracks becomes Sham's "philosophy." With the help of his friends on the Medes, the Railsea equivalent of Bedoins, and the quirky siblings whose parents once captained the strange train that so obsesses him, Sham follows his "philosophy," and in an even more possessed manner than Ahab ever could.

The Railsea is rich in detail. This very foreign landscape that makes up the setting for this novel comes vividly to life. The novel has all the appeal elements of science fiction: exciting battles, strange often deadly alien creatures, unique otherworldly characters, it even has a post apocalyptic city complete with the shambling remnants of its past occupants.

The Railsea is quite simply modern science fiction at its nuanced, inventive best.
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on January 18, 2014
I really did. I tried. And I'm the end Ives glad I finished if only so I could say confidently that I did not like it.

The story is absurd, which is fine. The problem is that nothing in the narrative softens that absurdity and invites me into the joke. At no time did my suspension of disbelief allow me to simply enjoy it. It fought the book on every page and it was exhausting.

The concept is interesting but not fleshed out. Nothing is ever really explained. The world building feels half assed. The characters are all cardboard and blur together.

The language is unnecessarily obfuscated. The plot is thin and puffed up unnaturally with ostentatious fluff. It's all style, no substance, and it seems to celebrate it's own self importance. The most maddening thing about it is that there are places where you realize the book could have been excellent, if it would just get over itself long enough to tell a proper story. Instead, it holds the story just out if the reader's grasp, playing keep away.

I'm sure many people like this book. But I don't appreciate being teased. I don't want to invest several hundred pages of my time into being confused and bored. And in the end, I want to think something other than "huh?"
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on April 23, 2014
You never know where his story line will go or just how to take the prose. This one is sort of a take on "So, Herman Melville and Neil Asher walk into a bar and came up with this story." I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it. With so much bad fantasy out there (yes, I'm talking about vampires, zombies and the like) Mieville's work is a breath of fresh air. Not, however, for the weak minded.
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on February 21, 2013
China Mieville delivers interesting, thought provoking stories, and this is no exception. I very much enjoyed following the main character on his self and world discovery adventure. Unlike some of his other books, this one didn't delve too deeply into anything too dark or twisted, which I appreciate.
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