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Railsea Hardcover – May 15, 2012

4.2 out of 5 stars 169 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Other names besides [Herman] Melville’s will surely come to mind as you read this thrilling tale—there’s Dune’s Frank Herbert. . . . But in this, as in all of his works, Miéville has that special knack for evoking other writers even while making the story wholly his own.”—Los Angeles Times
“[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)

About the Author

China Miéville is the author of several books, including Un Lun Dun, Perdido Street Station, The City & The City, Kraken, & Embassytown. His works have won the Hugo, the British Science Fiction Award (twice), the Arthur C. Clarke Award (three times) & the World Fantasy Award. He lives & works in London.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Del Rey; Limited Edition edition (May 15, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780345524522
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345524522
  • ASIN: 0345524527
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.4 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (169 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #659,933 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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 think it's really trying to be. Given its content, I think that `a novel for readers of all ages' is the perfect description for Railsea. It will appeal to Miéville's adult fanbase, as well as make him more accessible to younger readers. The teens who will fall in love with Railsea will be those who probably read a lot of adult sci-fi or fantasy already; they will be smart, appreciate a wry sense of humor, and have a wonderful sense of adventure. Readers must be patient getting into this one, as it will take you a while to feel entirely at ease with the language and story, and to understand the world that Miéville has built, but I assure you that it will be worth the effort.

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.
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Format: Hardcover
I have to admit that I had a hard time getting into this book at first; in fact, I almost gave up on it. Not because the world was strange- all worlds Mieville builds are strange. It just didn't click with me. But I'm glad I hung on, because around about the middle, things picked up and then I couldn't put the book down.

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'.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It's a bit difficult to describe my feelings about Railsea.

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.
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