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Railsea Hardcover – May 15, 2012
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“[Miéville] gives all readers a lot to dig into here, be it emotional drama, Godzilla-esque monster carnage, or the high adventure that comes only with riding the rails.”—USA Today
“Superb . . . massively imaginative.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Riveting . . . a great adventure.”—NPR
“Wildly inventive . . . Every sentence is packed with wit.”—The Guardian (London)
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Top Customer Reviews
As China Miéville has said himself: "Part of the appeal of the fantastic is taking ridiculous ideas very seriously and pretending they're not absurd." I couldn't possibly describe Railsea in a more accurate sentence. Railsea is ridiculous, but the respect and authority that Miéville gives to his characters in the story therein left me completely enraptured, enamored, and on the edge of my seat wanting more. To me, Railsea was hilarious. I was constantly laughing out loud in the way that you laughs at someone who you are never quite sure recognizes how clever they are.Read more ›
The world of Railsea is even weirder than most of Mieville's worlds; except for in the cities, the ground cannot be walked upon. Spaces between cities are covered with train tracks that weave, cross, bend, intertwine, join and change gauge with abandon. Step off those tracks, and you risk attracting the attention of the giant, carnivorous, burrowing critters: beetles, worms, moles, tortoises, owls and others. As on the world of `Dune', human footsteps draw danger. Even the trains are vulnerable to attack by these 1960s Japanese horror movie monsters. This is a world of ecological ruin, one where technology ranges from wind powered to steam to diesel to nuclear and where the cities seem to be some combo of Mad Max and Lankhmar.
The book has multiple plotlines; in one, the captain of the Medes, a mole hunting train, is minus an arm and searches for the taker, a gigantic white mole; in another, the main character Sham Yes ap Soorap ("Call me Sham") seeks to tell a pair of children about the fate of their parents; while the semi-orphaned children seek to complete their parents goal, all dovetailing into one wild, breathless finale. The characters are likable, although none are really deep; Sham is the most fully realized as more time is devoted to his story than the others.
The book is hard to pigeonhole: part science fiction, part fantasy, part dystopian fiction, part satire; I think the best term might be `salvage punk'.Read more ›
Allow me to illustrate my problem: I can't figure out what the book is supposed to be. Is it an allegory about corporate greed, about the toll humanity takes on the world around us? It seems so. Is it simply a weird adventure, written from an absinthe dream after falling asleep reading Moby Dick? It easily could be.
It could be that the entire story was an excuse to hurl the reader into this world of water-less ports and sea-less monsters -- it's as good a reason as any, I suppose.
And that's the problem with Railsea: I have no idea what I've just read. I have no idea what I was supposed to get out of it.
But of course, this could be purposeful: in a (spoiler-free) way, I'm mirroring the journey of the book's protagonist, Sham. You see, that's the true wonderful nature of the book -- it presents a world of mysteries, full of people working to solve them.
The intrepid captains who hunt their philosophies (in the form of giant burrowing monsters who represent life-lessons and principles in the eyes of the hunters) are trying to solve the mysteries of their own lives. The brave updivers, who struggle to discover what lies abandoned in the alien-infested cliffs and poisonous air of the upsky. It seems that everyone in the Railsea is looking for information about their surroundings.
So is it an adventure about a boy? An exploration of a setting? A cautionary tale?
It shifts. Near the beginning of the book, during the opening mole-hunting scenes, I was truly reminded of Moby Dick -- and yearned to re-read it, for a very brief time, until the upsky began to get attention, and the cast-off artifacts of alien visitation. Then, I wanted to reread Roadside Picnic.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
If it weren't for my having started to read Cloud Atlas, I may have given this 5 stars because it has pretty much all I want from a sci fi novel. Read morePublished 19 days ago by gamer
Quite frankly, the above descriptions were picked at random - I was so bored that I couldn't get very far - as with all of Miéville's books - bored, bored, bored. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Mrs Danvers
China Mieville just gets better and better. This is a take-off on Moby Dick, which I haven't read but have been around long enough to recognize big chunks of it. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Julia Mira
I realize that I am reviewing this book prematurely, as I haven't finished it yet. It gave me a headache, so I came here to review it. Here's my problem. I'm a speed reader. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Rachel
Ahoy me mateys. So this book and I did not get along. I have always heard good things about the author and so I thought I would give one of his books a shot. Read morePublished 5 months ago by The Captain