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104 of 114 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars one of my top reads of 2012
I'm not going to lie and say that Railsea is a book I will be recommending to all readers, but I will, with certainty, be recommending it to anyone and everyone I think would enjoy it. Railsea isn't what anyone expects to see under the `YA' label. Many have argued that it isn't really YA at all, but when a book is pitched as `a novel for readers of all ages', I don't...
Published on May 15, 2012 by H. Frederick

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Clever Fun but Empty Calories
I've read most of Mieville's work and his books range from stunning (Perdido Street Station) to disappointing (Kraken). This is the only YA novel I've read. Railsea drops the reading complexity down a notch and creates a nice concept that serves as an homage to many earlier works, especially Moby Dick. It's hard to imagine there's not some Frank Herbert influence as...
Published 20 months ago by Ken Lawrence


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5.0 out of 5 stars This book is a huge amount of fun. Anyone who might be put off by the ..., August 29, 2014
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Eric Elliott (O'Neals, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Railsea (Kindle Edition)
This book is a huge amount of fun. Anyone who might be put off by the dark tone of Mieville's other books need not worry about that with this one. This is a joyous mash-up and mutation of all the rollicking sea stories that are now considered classics. Mieville thumbs his nose at all the English professors that go on and on about the profundity of Moby Dick without ever realizing the underlying humor of the book. Treasure Island and Robinson Crusoe also get a friendly back-hand along the way.

I went into this book expecting Mieville's signature genus with world-building and complex characters, and got so much more. This book has earned a place in my top favorites of all time.
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5.0 out of 5 stars and it was a very good read - intelligently written in a creative style, August 3, 2014
This review is from: Railsea (Kindle Edition)
My first Kindle book, and it was a very good read - intelligently written in a creative style, full of interesting characters and plot lines that keep you turning pages. It purposefully calls to mind Melville's Moby Dick, while at the same time richly conjuring up a far-in-the-future, quasi-steampunk, rather dystopian world that reflects some of today's more pressing issues -- environmental degradation, societal fragmentation and conflict, religious beliefs vs. science/technology in forming a world view and an understanding of history/creation, corporate power excess, and the existence of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. I was sorry to get to the end.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rollicking adventure treat!, May 19, 2012
This review is from: Railsea (Hardcover)
In Railsea by China Miéville, the orphan Sham ap Soorap lives in a tangle, travelling the railsea as doctor's assistant on the moler Medes. It's not a job he's particularly good at, and it doesn't help he's not quite sure what he wants to do with himself.
The railsea on which the train Medes travels is a dangerous place -- step off the rails, which cover the dry, soft earth-ocean in a Borgesian labyrinth, and you'll find that the monsters of the deep are rather too close to the surface either for comfort or surviving the next five minutes. However, it has its rewards for those who travel the rails, switching their way from line to line in pursuit of salvage, moldywarpes, or philosophies. You might even find your place in life -- or so Sham hopes.
Of course, sometimes you also find something completely unexpected. One day Sham ends up on a crew sent out by the captain to investigate a wrecked train, and comes across some pictures. In short order, Sham finds himself in the middle of a pursuit by pirates, naval trains, and subterrains for what lies behind those pictures -- a truth that will change the world.
Escape Rating A: As with the rest of Miéville's oeuvre, Railsea works on many levels. It's a rollicking adventure tale worthy of Robert Louis Stevenson, a coming-of-age story, and a treat for those who like wordplay. For example, at one point the Medes finds itself trapped between a siller and the Kribbis Hole (read it aloud to fully appreciate).
The book is like the railsea itself, a dense knot of intersecting story lines, changes in points of view, and allusions. The entangling lines of the physical setting matches the complexity of the human setting with its array of diverse island city-states, pirates, salvors, and nomadic Bajjer traveling the lonely sea, to say nothing of the detritus of history and alien influence that litters the world and hints at many untold tales. The book makes it clear that its pages only scratch the surface of a fascinating milieu.
From this knot emerges a meditation on constraint and searching for freedom. The railsea cannot be escaped, seemingly -- as I mentioned, stray off the narrow (though not very straight) tracks and you'll quickly find yourself devoured by the denizens of the soft earth. The high sky is the domain of alien beings too strange and obscure to contemplate. Travel in one direction, and you'll eventually find the rails looping back on themselves. Pursue your obsession, as Ahab did with Moby-Dick, and you'll find yourself in the midst of dozens of captains, each with their own "philosophy" that few of them manage to hunt down.
There's a lot to be said for staying in the thicket -- there are lots of interesting things to find there, as any reader of Miéville has come to expect. Once you reach the end, however, you'll find a rather satisfying breath of fresh air.
Originally published at Reading Reality
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Looks past the preachin', May 18, 2012
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This review is from: Railsea (Hardcover)
Railsea is an environmental cautionary tale of Vonneguttian proportions, showing the long term results of human folly etc.
Luckily, this is Mieville we're talking about, and so this is basically a book where the imagination runs free, and the reader is taken on a page-turning adventure that's hard to stop. Mieville's social commentary pendulates between the utopic and the dystopic, but importantly the book is gripping enough so as to make all this just a backdrop to a really great story.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fun, unique, recommended, August 30, 2014
This review is from: Railsea (Kindle Edition)
This book has the rare distinction of being both wholly unique while paying clear homage to the progenitors of this type of science fiction, the most obvious and early being Melville. It combines many recognizable literary tropes - the hunt, heroes journey, etc. Like many Mieville books, at the start I wondered if I could keep the characters and the rules of the world straight, so that I could lose myself in the story. Like always, it never takes long.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The novel takes you in unexpected directions with characters that aren't always fleshed out but overall it's a fun adventure. By, August 20, 2014
By 
L. Schodts (Washington, D.C.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Railsea (Kindle Edition)
It took a few chapters before my mind wrapped around the voice of the novel. I'd come into it without reading any excerpts or reviews so I wasn't quite ready for the directions and characters. The novel takes you in unexpected directions with characters that aren't always fleshed out but overall it's a fun adventure.

By the end I was really hoping for more answers but the novel is completely open ended. (Think, Empire Strikes Back, ending)
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Officially Not a Mieville Fan, December 16, 2013
This review is from: Railsea (Hardcover)
I hated this book. Mieville has his fans, many of whom claim to be Lovecraft followers as well, but I just can't get behind the author. He uses superfluous language/story structure, nonsense story arcs, and just plain general unremarkable characters to try and make you care about a world that in itself isn't all that bad. But the nature of the world, which would be a great mystery in anyone else's hands, turns to nothing more than fluff when allowed to languish under Mieville's literary "talent."

If you liked "King Rat" then you'll love this book as well. I myself just can't get behind the man as a writer. I've seen interviews and he seems okay enough...just can't read his stories.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What a ride., August 10, 2012
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This review is from: Railsea (Hardcover)
Originally reviewed at [...]

4.5/5 Stars

What a ride. I was familiar with author China Miéville, having read some of his adult fiction titles, so when I discovered that he was publishing a YA work, I was excited to see how it would compare with his adult works. Sometimes the transition from one age group to another doesn't go over so well. I won't point any fingers but I have read some adult fiction author's attempts to break into the very popular YA market and fail miserably. YA doesn't equate to less intelligent, and nothing aggravates me more than when a writer tries to dumb down a book for a younger audience. Anyway (sorry about the rant) I am thrilled to say that Miéville's Railsea is just as action packed, imaginative, and smart as his adult works.

My first thoughts regarding Railsea lead me back to two of my favorite bloggers and friends, Heidi (Bunbury in the Stacks) and Asheley (Into the Hall of Books) because both of these girls read and loved this book. In fact, Railsea, had been languishing on my Kindle until I read Heidi's enthusiastic review, spurring me to pick it up and give it a look. I am so glad I did. Railsea has many elements that lovers of fantasy will enjoy. A hero quest across strange lands, chock full of action filled encounters with many odd and, at times, endearing characters. But there are also elements in Railsea that would make the die hard Dystopic fan's jaw drop. A foreign land, that seems at once dangerous, yet eerily familiar to the world we call our own. And Railsea caters to the lover of science fiction as well, full of fantastic burrowing creatures under the earth and even more amazing celestial creatures inhabiting the sky. If you are a fan of steampunk and the salvage filled world found in Paolo Bacigulupi's Ship Breaker, than you'll appreciate the similarities in Railsea. And anyone who enjoys classic works of literature, especially Herman Melville's Moby Dick or Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, will also enjoy Sham Yes ap Soorap's adventure across the railsea. So, to make a long story short, Railsea has a little something for everyone.

In a nutshell, Railsea is a nod to the classic, Moby Dick. But instead of a maritime setting where whaling ships rule the seas, Sham's world is a sea of railroad tracks, crisscrossing the land in a tangled jungle of iron. Rising above are islands, pockets of land where cities have been established like the seaports of old. But below the rails, deep in the ground, are fantastic creatures, burrowing animals that have grown to monstrous sizes, like the great southern moldywarpe. These are the animals Sham and his moletrain, the Medes, hunt in the railsea. In other words: incredible world building.

But that is not just what Railsea is about. In fact there are many different layers to the story, complex layers in fact, but I'll leave the deconstruction of Railsea to those more qualified. Suffice to say, this is a very smart read, a book that will make you think, and Miéville is able to do this in such a fashion it never felt too heavy handed or hard to comprehend (tying in to my rant above!) That is the genius of Miéville. For me, however, Railsea is Sham's story, a story about his desire for knowledge, and the adventure that follows in his quest for it.

I love the character of Sham, though I will admit it wasn't love at first sight. As the assistant to the physician aboard the moletrain Medes, where he lives and works, it took me a bit of time to warm up to him. But I think what I liked most about him was that even though he had a pretty cool gig, traveling to distant lands looking for moldywarpes, he's still not satisfied with the cards he has been dealt. Sham wants more. He longs to become a salvor, one of the many who scour the earth in search of all types of salvage: nu-salvage, and arche-salvage (the salvage of the distant past, i.e. our time, and Sham's favorite) and even alt-salvage, which is off -Terran, in other words, not from our planet. Sham longs for adventure and discovery. Well, he finds it, in more ways than one.

In addition to Sham there are a host of incredible characters featured in Railsea including the captain of the Medes, Naphi, who endlessly tracks her philosophy, her only system of belief, an obsession with the great moldywarpe Mocker Jack. Naphi, a modern day Captain Ahab, is complex and so well written, she's easily one of my favorite characters in Railsea. Aboard the Medes, there are memorable characters at every turn: Sham's trainmates Dr. Fremlo, Vurinam, Benightly and Mbendy to name a few. Miéville introduces the reader to the the salvor Sirocco, and the pirate Robalson, and the siblings Caldera and Dero, who harbor a secret that Sham can't resist. And lets not forget the vast assortment of animals we encounter along the way. From the massive great southern moldywarpe Mocker Jack, to Sham's pet daybat, Daybe, it's in the creation of these amazing animals, both endearing and horrific, where Miéville really shines.

I had heard that there were some beautiful illustrations in Railsea, and even though I had the electronic version of the text, I was stoked to see that they were still included. Maps and illustrations in books are such a cool treat. And cooler yet is that these have been drawn by the author himself.

Sometimes it's not easy to read Railsea. The names are strange, and hard to pronounce, and the setting seems so familiar yet so different at the same time. As I navigated my way through the start of the book I was reminded of Lewis Carroll's Jabberwockey, the language was so odd, the names almost like nonsense words (moldywarpe), yet it didn't take me too long to get a feel for it and decipher the meanings. I have to also mention that the writing style itself confused me a bit. You see the word and is never written out. Never. Instead an ampersand (&) is used in it's place. & I mean the entire length of the book. I was unsure if this was intentional or if this was something only present in my electronic galley version. But later in the book, Miéville actually offers an explanation as to why this occurs. I think Miéville might employ tactics like this as a way to pace the reader, and to always keep fresh in their minds, as it was in mine, that this world in which Sham lives is distinctly different and other from our own.

Another thing I loved about Railsea was Miéville's "breaking of the fourth wall," when a character, or the narrator in this case, addresses the reader directly (think Jane Eyre, when Jane addresses the audience with "Dear Reader.") Here Miéville uses this device to slow the down the action, at times stopping it all together and backtracking in the story. I LOVE when an author employs this device, it makes me feel like I'm not just reading a book, but am instead experiencing the story as if it were being read to me.

And that's what reading Railsea was like. Like sitting around a circle and an elder telling me this fantastic adventure. Or like your grandpa, sitting at your bedside, reading you chapters of this magical story that you know you will remember for the rest of your life. Stories you'll read to your children and grandchildren one day.

I know that when my son's are older, because I think to really get this book, the youngest reader should be an older tween or teen, I will definitely be introducing Railsea to them. Heidi said it best when she said that this book won't be for everyone. But for some, me included, this book is magical. It's timeless, and though it's technically published for a YA audience, this is definitely one of those rare reads that defies categorization. Like Moby Dick, Treasure Island and Ship Beaker, readers of all ages can enjoy this book. If you are already a fan of China Miéville, I think you'll enjoy Railsea, and if you aren't, why not give this one a try? You might find yourself as taken with it as I was.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's about dreams and adventure in a world we want to get to know better., June 4, 2012
By 
Bookreporter (New York, New York) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Railsea (Hardcover)
RAILSEA has been compared to Herman Melville's MOBY DICK, but it's really just China Miéville's take on an adventure story. Its philosophies, the hunt, the unknown, and the need for answers and exploration of our origins drive this novel.

Shamus Yes ap Soorap (Sham for short) is the youngest crew member of the Medes, a mole train on the hunt for a big catch on the great railsea. He has dreams of working salvage --- finding new things, old things, and alien things. What he actually does is assist the doctor of the Medes and bring water to the men and women who are working to break down the moles they hunt into oil, bone and skin. The captain of the Medes, Naphi, is on the hunt for a mole --- a legendary ivory-colored mole called Mocker-Jack. She believes, as other mole train captains do, that capturing Mocker-Jack is her destiny.
When the railsea leads the crew of the Medes to an old wreck, Sham goes with the crew to investigate and finds something he hopes to make his very own piece of salvage. Instead, he hands over the small camera memory chip to the captain. The images it contains lead Sham and his captain in essentially the same direction with different outcomes --- Sham is led to two children of now dead-explorers, and the captain is led to new, never-before-conceived hunting grounds. Naphi's dreams of bringing down Mocker-Jack, her famed ivory-colored mole, now seem within reach.

What Miéville does that I absolutely love is create places so familiar, yet at the same time so strange. He creates a land that the crew is afraid to step on for fear of dying. This world of safe land among animal-prowled soft dirt is both alien and accessible at the same time. It's a world of dirt, but he makes you see it as a world of water --- deep and unsafe water at that. Out in the railsea, it's the tracks that keep everyone safe, and you have no choice but to believe that's the absolute truth of this world.

This is also a book filled with characters you'll care about and fear for in a world poised to attack. Sham is young, untested, naïve, and trusts people too easily. He never knew the fate of his parents, and when he has the opportunity to bring closure to two children whose parents have died, he sets out to do just that, unaware of the implications his actions may bring. His pet, an injured daybat he nursed back to health and named Daybe, is a stalwart friend and more than just a silly little bat. Daybe is fearless, with crazy loyalty to young Sham, and is one of the book's most memorable characters.

I've read several of Miéville's books, and he's now on the list of authors from whom I anxiously await books. No matter the topic, a book by Miéville is one that I want to read. He has an ability to take our world, warp a few elements, twist a few basic beliefs, and make it something so new and strange. These new worlds don't stop existing simply because the book is closed. His worlds and stories stay with you long after the end.

As a side note, I've seen this book described as a young adult novel. It's really much more than that, and much more than just a re-telling of MOBY DICK. It's about dreams and adventure in a world we want to get to know better. And isn't that why we read? China Miéville makes these worlds we crave possible. In fact, you should be reading RAILSEA now.

Reviewed by Amy Gwiazdowski on June 1, 2012
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review of Railsea, June 2, 2012
This review is from: Railsea (Hardcover)
I've read a lot of books, but none of them have been nearly so enveloping as Railsea by China Miéville. What do I mean by "enveloping?"

Well, let's take the ampersand for starters. Throughout the book (& this review, because I love it so much) China inserts the ampersand for each "and," & it's there for a reason - which is explained once the story is about 3/4ths of the way through. It's alternatively very, very cool & very distracting, but it works for what it was intended to do & is a constant reminder of how different things are.

Also, there is the narrator. I'm not sure who exactly is narrating the book, but suffice it to say the narrator keeps things interesting. You know those books that jump around between three different sets of characters & always jump right when things are really heating up for the one that has you completely sucked into? The narrator acknowledges that is happening in a way - but still you have to wait & you may have to read a few short pages of the narrator musing on the state of the world in the process. It's very cool - that's all I have to say about that.

This story is part Moby Dick, part Treasure Island, part Robinson Crusoe. There are characters with strange names, a strange world filled with dangerous creatures (I always thought moles were freaky). There's a strange caste structure & instead of sticking to a specific genre, China moves between Steampunk, Post-Apocalyptic, & Dystopia - mixing all three into a wonderful stew of adventure goodness.

Before you dive into this unique, incredible story though let me warn you - it's taxing to the brain. I had to take several breaks before diving back in because my mind was having to work so hard to adjust to everything. This is classified as a Young Adult book, but frankly I haven't worked so hard reading a "Young Adult" book since I picked up Ender's Game.
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Railsea
Railsea by China Miéville (Hardcover - May 15, 2012)
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