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4.6 out of 5 stars
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4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 17 March 2017
As with most of Mieville it's missing the 10% that would have made it truly astonishing.
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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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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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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 30 September 2012
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 13 July 2016
This is modelled on a sea yarn with the boats and sea monsters swapped for trains and giant moles.

The characters are likeable enough and believable in their setting.

The pace is good with plenty happening all the time as we gradually learn more about the world and its inhabitants and fauna, the pseudo-scientific style of description is a nice touch.

The idea of the Railsea and the angels is twisted and cynical with a few surprises.

The problem is that the plot is too simple, the young boy on a quest travelling with boon companions and a romantic interest is too predicatable even in such a strange setting.

It is ok but not one of his best.
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on 20 July 2016
I really enjoyed the book right up until the payoff. The language is unusual, with a scattering of neologisms and alternative grammar, a little like Clockwork Orange only very readable - a much lighter touch. The world created, as ever with CM, is very fully realised and fascinating. The internal logic of the world and the story hold together well and sparkle with invention. Set in what is probably, but never overtly stated as, a future Earth, there's enough detail and familiarity in the strange that you can imagine the evolution towards this new world - it has a sense of being possible. Characters are rounded and interesting, with occasional digressions into back-stories to flesh them out, although it feels more an exploration of world, or culture, than the individuals in it.
The overarching narrative is a chase, but as we pursue or are pursued so we come to see the world and its people and begin to piece together the jigsaw of how things came to be, and indeed what this world is.
The only difficulty I had was a sense of disappointment in the ending. Perhaps I was dense and didn't get it, but it came across to me as a punchline to an extended joke. Look how foolish is man. Fair enough - I too despair of the human condition, but the conclusion rang hollow for me. I don't want everything answered and tied in a bow, but for me what came before deserved something richer.
In the end, CM is one of the most inventive and articulate story-tellers I've ever read, different to but comparable with Philip K Dick for his breadth of ideas and narrative fluency - and Railsea is still many times better than the majority of SF.
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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 7 July 2016
I don't read much fantasy anymore, but I gave this a shot, and I'm glad I did. The author doesn't try to out-epic other books in this genre, just spins a fun yarn about an inexperienced trainsman and his first grand adventure on the railsea. Definitely has a Moby Dick vibe, but thankfully spares us from suffering through page after page of detailed descriptions of moldywarpes (giant moles who live beneath the railsea). This is the first book I've read by China Mieville. He has a great talent for phrasing things in a flowery way without coming across as pretentious. A rare gift!

My only criticisms are the ridiculous names of the characters (which I did eventually get used to), their lack of depth, and, in some cases, they are underutilized. The occasional 'authorial voice' intrusions weren't my cup of tea, but didn't detract too much from my overall immersion in the story.

Very enjoyable read; would definitely recommend.
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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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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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