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Railsea Paperback – April 30, 2013
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“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)
From the Hardcover edition.
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.
Top customer reviews
The novel follows the main character, Sham Yes ap Soorap, as he takes working passage on a moler train (think whaler but a train that hunts giant moles). As Sham and the crew come upon wrecks, and discover mysteries (which lead to more mysteries), Mr. Mieville slowly unfolds a very realistic, very believable history as to why mole trains that hunt the great moles came to be (along with other monstrosities) and how the millions upon millions of rail lines covering much of the earth came about.
I was hesitant at first, as the idea of a land covered in rail lines seemed to stretch the imagination a bit too much, but seeing the positive reviews here and at other book sites and by professional book reviewers in newspapers and the like, made me take the chance. Still, I let the book sit for three months as I worried that Railsea would be a disappointment like Mieville's Kraken. Then, I finally picked Railsea up and read the first 30 or so pages...then 70 and then 100 and then 200 and then...well, I just couldn't put it down.
I titled my review "If I Could Give 6 Stars" for two reasons:
1. It's very, very rare for a writer to create a completely believable world, populate it with fascinating and multi-dimensional characters, have a gripping story to tell, and then tell the story very well (if nothing else, reading the castaway bit at the beginning of chapter 65 is going to get you - it's almost humiliating the way Mr. Mieville can grab us readers).
2. There's so much in this book that for the first time in 30 years (including all the other Mieville books), I actually want to read a novel immediately again just to catch things that I know I didn't quite pick up on the first time around.
And how often can you say both points about one book?
If you like Mr. Mieville, you will love Railsea. Stop reading more reviews and run out and get it. And if this is your introduction to Mr. Mieville, welcome to his strange, fabulous and always addictively entertaining books.
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.
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.