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YA, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, 448 pages, Del Rey
- Series: stand-alone, but there is setup for a sequel.
- Pub date: May 15th 2012
- Disclosure: Received a copy from the publisher via NetGalley. Thanks!
On board the moletrain Medes, Sham Yes ap Soorap watches in awe as he witnesses his first moldywarpe hunt: the giant mole bursting from the earth, the harpoonists targeting their prey, the battle resulting in one’s death and the other’s glory. But no matter how spectacular it is, Sham can't shake the sense that there is more to life than traveling the endless rails of the railsea–even if his captain can think only of the hunt for the ivory-coloured mole she’s been chasing since it took her arm all those years ago. When they come across a wrecked train, at first it's a welcome distraction. But what Sham finds in the derelict—a series of pictures hinting at something, somewhere, that should be impossible—leads to considerably more than he'd bargained for. Soon he's hunted on all sides, by pirates, trainsfolk, monsters and salvage-scrabblers. And it might not be just Sham's life that's about to change. It could be the whole of the railsea.The Long...
When I heard about a YA sci-fi take on Moby Dick that's set on a giant network of railroads instead of the open sea, I knew I'd be reading it, even if it was terrible.
The style is punk (halfway between dieselpunk and the age of steam). The world is gorgeous, toxic, as boundless and real as our own. Our characters are adventurers in the archetypal sense: richly realized and intrepid. It's a both a throwback to the nineteenth century and a clever, slangy look to the future. And despite Miéville's delight in wordplay that is nigh indecipherable at times, he never loses sight of the plot, and I was riveted to every page.
In other words, this book was far from terrible. In fact, it's easily one of the best books I've read so far this year.
It's nice to find a book that's willing to reveal its small wonders slowly, instead of throwing them at us all at once. Miéville starts with a bang and keeps the action going the whole way through, but we're also given time to catch our breath as he breaks down his incredible creation for us piece by piece. Alien creatures inhabit the poisoned upsky. Alien technology falls to earth, to be picked up by salty and slightly scary salvage crews. Mysterious angels maintain the rails, which tangle every which way as far as the eye can see--but there is an end, Sham finds, and he is determined to reach it.
If you're looking for a savvy sci-fi read like no other, look no further. Railsea amazes with its ability to be both exciting and thought-provoking, both clever and a damn good story, besides. While it's marketed heavily as YA, adult sci-fi fans should find it equally excellent, and since there's little sex and explicit violence to speak of, it would make a great family read-aloud, too.
...and the Short:
Riveting, clever, and gorgeously realized, this salty sci-fi ferronautical tale is one of the best novels I've read so far this year, YA or otherwise. Not to be missed.
The Final Word: Loved it.