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This review is from: Railsea (Hardcover)
Miéville's obvious affection in writing for the younger reader is apparent & this story chugs along at an intelligently playful clip. In short it narrates the varied concerns & efforts of Sham ap Soorap, begrudging doctors apprentice aboard the mole-train Medes; under the auspices of Captain Naphi as she hunts the yellow - sorry: ivory - coloured mole-cum-behemoth known as Mocker-Jack, & the effects of his unwitting discovery of evidence that there is an end to the interminable tangle of tracks known as the Railsea.
The initial impression I had when I started reading was that this was similar in feel to Iron Council: an old western-feel yarn atop a train, however, as the story untangles it becomes clear - by the introduction of electrical devices & ruminations on epochs known as the Computational Era - that this is not the case. The use of such at first seems anachronistic, but the disparate parts are juggled sagaciously in the apt hands of Miéville so that it becomes a kind of fluid-disparity; elision with dulcet prose.
The story works on many levels and is what - in this reviewer's humble opinion - transcends the book from good to great.
The story is a yarn-that-rips as it riffs from Melville's (Moby) Dick with clever word-play, use of alliteration, sportive solecism and playful portmanteau (unsnarlable & decidalise being my respective favourites); the cheeky nomenclature of the Railsea's Deities (That Apt Ohm, the godsquabble to name a few); the clever use of ferro- prefixing anything nautical; the various types of salvage (nu-, arche-, alt- & dei-), & of course all that is enticingly hinted at or left unsaid between the lines (pun most definitely intended).
At first I thought the use of the ampersand purely a stylish literary quirk but oh what a fool I was for thinking Miéville would do anything so whimsical...
& = the Railsea, or more specifically: the tangle the Railsea represents. It's allegorical mastery & this reader was unashamedly impressed!
Miéville's penchant for political allegory is also present and becomes most demonstrative toward the end of the novel with effective imagery and extended metaphor. I loved it again; an eloquently detailed left-wing dig at right-wing state monopoly capitalism.
I have enjoyed Miéville's word-travails to other weird and bizarre reaches of his literary mind but none as much as Bas-Lag, of which Railsea is relishingly reminiscent. & if you're a Miéville fan, particularly a Bas-Lag Miéville fan, you will certainly not want to miss this.
The similarities to Iron Council are blatant but superficial & one cannot help but think of The Scar's Avanc when the Medes is chasing Mocker-Jack.
Was this intentional then, a kind of elided version of Scar and Council; Bas-Lag for younger readers? I'm not sure it matters but it does interest me. Unfortunately I no longer fall under the genre of young-adult and I did approach this with guarded optimism, however, if you overlook the unnecessarily short chapters and simplified plot you'll still find a story brimming with inventive ideas and cannily deviceful.