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4.6 out of 5 stars60
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 15 September 2013
This hardback version of Railsea is fantastic. The story is a prime example of the type of fantasy Mieville writes. Any genre fiction fan needs to read this story of a dystopian society.
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I'm grateful to the publisher for sending me an advance copy of this book.

Most of Miéville's recent books seem to me to have worked out the consequences of an audacious central idea - two cities in one place in The City & The City an alien race learning to lie in Embassytown, the city of what London rejects in Un Lun Dun. Railsea follows that with... well, a rail sea.

You might think that the point of a railway is that the trains go, more or less, along a given route. But imagine the surface of the Earth, in the (far?) future, being covered in a dense mesh of intersecting lines, looping back on themselves, switching and splitting and splitting again. A railsea, on which, (with good maps and enough skill at working the points) you can travel more or less anywhere.

Upon a sea like that, what might you find? Island nations, with teeming ports? Ruthless pirates, as merciless as any in Treasure Island? A captain, consumed by the hunt for a great beast, like Ahab in Moby-Dick? Desert islands? Explorers? Treasure hunters? The proud navies of rival nations? Hunters of salvage (whether arche-salvage, nu-savage or alt-salvage)? Wreckers? Really, a boy like Sham, setting out on his first voyage as assistant doctor aboard the moletrain "Medes", might encounter anything.

Miéville portrays this railsea so well, using such twisted, yet concrete language, bristling with his own invented rail jargon, that as you read you can feel the beat of wheels on the rails and see the distant horizons, the dangerous knots of lines and treacherous shoals, the unmarked gauge changes that his characters negotiate. And he makes them real, as well - Sham, the Captain chasing down her all-consuming "philosophy", Sham's colourful crewmates, the strange Shroake siblings to whose story his becomes coupled.

Like them, Miéville speculates on where the railsea came from, and how it persists. Rails don't just happen, and in Sham's world, people are inclined to attribute it to the old gods, such as That Apt Om, and the repairwork to mysterious angel trains. Nobody really wants to get to the bottom of things, just to make a living. But sometimes, one doesn't have a choice...

This is an excellent book, which I think will appeal to Miéville's different groups of readers - a story of adventure, more straightforward perhaps than Embassytown or City and the City, but in my view more focussed and (even) better realised than UnLundun.
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on 7 April 2014
I've had trouble getting properly immersed into books lately, and this one helped me rediscover the magic. I feel like I'm a child again. The joy of invention is remarkable.
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on 2 May 2015
A steampunk masterpiece with prose that makes the tongue dance. The vivid, abstract landscapes he designs transports me to the Railsea and I wish to spend more time there.
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on 23 November 2013
Really imaginative work again from Mieville, with nods to Melville, and many others too. A really good read, even if I thought that Embassytown was better.
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on 28 February 2016
What an imagination this author has! I've read all his books, this one is not his best , but a good story. For one of best try Perdido Street Station
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on 22 November 2014
I loved Railsea - it is a triumph of imagination - extraordinarily well depicted alternate world, completely mad characters and setting, good ending.
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on 10 May 2016
Enthralling read from start to finish. Something of a sci-fi nod to Moby Dick that is difficult to put down once you start. Loved it.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 12 February 2014
I've always intended to read one of Mieville's books, but every time I've dipped into one, it hasn't hooked me. This one caught my eye based on title alone, and I thought I'd try it out as an audiobook. From the get-go, I loved the concept of a future in which massive clusters of railroad lines functioned as an ocean, upon which all manner of train travel, some hunting for animals, some hunting for salvage, some pirating. Mieville's taken the tropes and conventions of the swashbuckling sea life and recast them aboard trains.

The protagonist is a classic type of the genre -- an orphaned teenage boy on his first voyage, here aboard a "Moler" (a train that hunts giant moles and brings their meat back to market) as a doctor's assistant. We see this strange world through his young eyes, and goggle in astonishment at the strange sights. What he finds at an old crash site leads him to two other teens and stories of what lies at the end of the world. Thus, a classic race and chase unfolds, with various players seeking untold riches just over the horizon.

The monsters are fearsome, the humans are interesting, the world is rich, there's not much not to like, except, perhaps the ending. It felt a little underwhelming to me, after all that came before, but that could have just been my own high expectations. It's a world I'd be keen to return to for more stories.
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on 25 April 2014
A great concept for a book, one of the most unique settings i have ever experienced. Overall definately worth reading
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