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4.7 out of 5 stars
Railsea
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 27 February 2013
Another great book from Miéville, this is a fantastic starting point if you haven't read him before. In a world covered in rails, where if you touch the bare earth you're likely to be devoured, a young man named Sham Yes ap Soorap goes on his first mouldywarp hunt. Borrowing from moby dick, treasure island and others, this is a book I devoured so fast and felt sad when I'd finished because the characters are so well written you'll know you'll miss them.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 5 June 2014
I love China Mieville and this is one of his best. OK so its supposed to be a Young Adult book and is a little like a less 'full on' version of The Scar but its all the better for that. Don 't be put off by the tag as its still a very readable adult book as well.

The base story is a straightforward rites of passage adventure, not unlike Neil Gaiman's Stardust but based on Moby Dick ( well partly anyway). There is also an element of Anime, at least that's what it feels like, in the twin adventurers that form part of the story. I can just see this story as an anime similar to Steamboy. But the real grabber is the imagination of a world, not quite like ours, with a sea made of rails and the trains that run over them. Absolutely brilliant and don't miss the side references slipped in to give a history of the rails. This is only book and only writter I know that could slip in references to Beeching, Mary Anning and the Fat Contoller whilst chasing a large yellow mole across a sea of rails.

When's the next novel coming out ?
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Railsea is a "big idea" book. This is not unusual for China Miéville. This book does the same thing for trains that Embassytown does for language. It expands the idea of rail-traveling trains in new directions, stretching our understanding while remaining faithful to their basic nature. The author has covered some of this ground before. In Iron Council he showed what might happen when a train's crew strikes out on their own, removing the tracks behind them and building a new route ahead. Railsea takes things a bit further.

Readers explore a world in which, unsurprisingly, train tracks cover most of the surface much like our ocean covers everything below... well, sea level. Some rocky islands are free of rails and of the poisoned soil beneath them. On these islands are the world's ports and cities. A variety of trains traverse the sea of rails. Some perform tasks similar to our familiar ocean-going ships: trade, exploration, "naval" military engagement, and even piracy. Others have stranger missions. There are trains that hunt the dangerous animals that burrow rapidly though the toxic soil. And there are the mysterious Angels that repair the rails for reasons of their own.

The railsea itself is such a well-crafted integration of the familiar and fantastic that it easily steals the reader's attention from the book's human characters. The characters' actions are interesting, but seem incidental compared to the continuing flow of new information about the railsea. It is enough to know that a young doctor's apprentice on a train that hunts giant moles finds pictures taken by a lost expedition. Soon joined by others, he follows this expedition's trail toward something new, interesting, and perhaps financially rewarding on the furthest shores of the railsea. You will have to join them to learn what they find.

I recommend this book highly. It is entertaining, imaginative and engaging. China Miéville's skills as a writer and storyteller have enabled him to create a reading experience well worth your time and attention. Enjoy!
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on 14 August 2014
This was my second China Mieville, after "The City and the City" - which I loved, but while I very much liked "Railsea", it's hard to believe it was written by the same guy. The most helpful reviews will tell you most of what you need to know. The main thing I would like to add is that if you like Neil Gaiman's novels aimed at the same market, you'll like this.
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on 6 May 2015
I'm not much given to science fiction/fantasy but this got a good review in the Times. Once you're over the idea of giant moles, the description of a planet criss crossed only with rail tracks is very appealing, the plots ok and the ending frankly bonkers but I guess if you can cope with the moles, well you're half way there...
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on 8 February 2013
A retelling of Moby Dick, but there's far more to it than that. China Mieville produces another highly imaginative and original story with engaging characters, a gripping plot, and lots of entertaining asides... Mrs Ethel Shroake, anyone? It's a Young Adult book, but this rather elderly adult thoroughly enjoyed it.
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on 11 September 2013
A beautifully written book brimming with ideas and wonder. Billed as a YA book but so well written and full of ideas I suspect as many adults (such as myself) will enjoy every carefully crafted word and be sad to turn the final page. More please.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 19 February 2013
After the mess that was Kraken and the characterless drivel of Embassytown, Railsea is a much welcome return to innovative and exciting storytelling. It takes a bit to get your head around the supremely weird concept, but ultimately it does (sort of) make sense. But what really helped make the book compelling was some characters with real depth to them (again something sadly missing from recent efforts). If anything the novel feels a little rushed. There's more to Sham et al that needs telling. There could easily have been a couple of 100 more pages of their adventures, of train line politics and intrigues.
More of the same please - but knowing CM books the chances of getting anything even remotely resembling anything either he or anyone else has done before is slimmer than a railway disappearing over the horizon!
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on 8 September 2013
Fantastic novel by one of my favourite authors. The book has a fascinating post-apocalyptic steampunk premise and a range of literary references and resonances with Melville's Moby-dick. Well worth a look.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
This is the second of Miéville's books that I've read. The first was the uneven and clunky 'Perrido Street Station' which I enjoyed until half way through, when it got tiring. It has to be said that 'Railsea's length is a significant saving grace! At just under 400 pages, it suffered not nearly as much from the plodding podge of 'Perrido'!

The story is essentially a reworking of 'Moby Dick', set in another of Miéville's fantastically imagined 'worlds'. This time round we have a world devoid of oceans, replaced instead with endless expanses of bare soil crisscrossed with rail-track. Trains are the substitute ocean liners, and gargantuan earth-shovelling moles are just a few of the substitute-whales/generic sea life etc. Put simply, this a great environment in which to set a novel. Miéville has clearly thought a great deal about how such a world works. The reader is consistently provided new tipbits of detail, almost all of it being downright awesome. While levels of realism are thrown out the window, you'll be treated to an almost decadent treat of steam-punky fare, complete with some rather horrific monsters.

There are a few negative aspects to the novel, however. For one, Miéville has adopted a particular style with which to tell his story. It's somewhat stilted, and takes getting used to. The off shot is a rather cold, clinical narrative-style. I didn't really mind it, but will say it lessens the effectiveness of a few events. For instance, it becomes hard to turn a fight scene into something exciting. The story is fairly fast-paced, but there wasn't much urgency to it. Though things happened one after another, it was hard to feel fully envolved in the action. This was a shame, as the actual events would make for some out of this world cinema.

The plot itself is probably the main issue, for it doesn't have much going for it. In fact, I'd describe it as heavy handed. Essentially we follow Sham, a simpleminded (come on, he is!!! :P), assistant doctor on board a 'moling train'. What's that, you might ask. Well, think whaling ships of old, bent on hunting whales for oil and meat. Only there aren't any whales in 'Railsea'; just the massive moles prone to eating people alive. Sounds fun? Yes, it is! At any rate, Sham gets embroiled in a rather convoluted trip to find the end of the world. That's the gist of where the story's headed. There's rather too much use of fortunate coincidences to keep things going, and about half way through the story starts following two new characters alongside the likeable Sham. I'm a tickler for single-narratives, so having the story jump around between characters as slightly irritating, as Sham was the individual I really gave a damn for. Nonetheless, to plot wasn't bad; just a little thin, and none too original. But there we go.

To conclude, I'd certainly recommend 'Railsea'. Even though I disliked 'Perrido Street Station', I felt Miéville was a name to come back to. 'Railsea' book has proved this true!!! For a glimpse of this writer's imagination alone, it's a book worth reading.
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