Jason's Reviews > Railsea

Railsea by China Miéville
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May 23, 12

bookshelves: read-2012, e-books
Read in May, 2012

5 Stars

Once again I am blown away by China Mieville. Railsea is a young adult oriented delight. It is like all Mieville novels in that it is tough to put it in a category. It is part fantasy, part dystopian, a smattering of steampunk and science fiction, and all Mieville. Parents can take delight knowing that if their child takes up this amazing piece of fiction, they will also be taking up the Webster dictionary. 

Mieville creates a fun and three dimensional cast of characters and side characters. The world building in this book is imaginative and top notch.  The plot is a combination of a coming of age story of a boy named Sham, a search for a captains "Moby Dick", and the endless pursuit of the great treasure that all thieves are searching for.

The dystopian world of the Railsea that Mieville has created is worth the read alone. It takes place in a world that has become poisoned, the upper atmosphere is unbreathable, the land itself is dead, and the world is filled with incredibly inhospitable fauna. I felt like I was reading a book in a world filled with Graboids from one of my favorite B-movies Tremors. It feels a bit like a post apocalyptic Moby Dick. Trains crossing a land covered in iron tracks, crossing dry and dead lands, passing by derelict machines, and unearthed salvage where one might finally strike it rich. Mieville's prose painted this landscape in a way that made me feel like I was there. He makes it all work at a new level by turning railway terminology into a completely new nautical one. The worms breach the surface of the ground and flop back down the same way that a whale does in the sea. The rail-people cast their fishing lines a stern in hopes to get the catch of the day. The penguins ... Rocked... Literally! The trains moved like giant ships a sea, across the vast and derelict landscape.

The amazing creatures that filled the pages were all earth adapted versions of creatures that we know today. Think about the world of The Flinstones,  where they had creatures that they called rock this and rock that. Burrowing owls, digging rats, beetles as big as a car, and worms the size of the trains themselves. The poisoned uppersky was filled with freak show twisted and mutated creatures. One such giant was reminiscent of a horror out of Stephen King's The Mist and I thought that it was freaking sweet. Mocker-Jack, captain Nephi's white whale, was a massive worm that was bone colored and had a house sized mouth that was filled with razor sized teeth. There are many other amazing creatures to,be discovered in this book.

Sham is a good young adult protagonist that goes through all the familiar coming of age story plot points. He befriends my second favorite character, his cool Daybat friend that he saves and names Daybe. Together they take us the reader on a magical and unforgettable journey. Across the great Railsea aboard their moler train, they search out legends and treasures. It is a fantastical ride that will be enjoyed by readers of all ages. Mieville paints the Railsea with almost as much detail as he does his pinnacle achievement the city of New Crobuzon from Perdio Street Station.

The book is paced at lightning speed. There are not really any major twists or turns to speak of, but that is alright too. The book has an amazing ending that really brought together the themes behind this gem. I would have loved it to be twice as long.

I loved this book and Mieville is one of the most gifted writers out their today.  Fantasy lovers, dystopian readers, YA readers, and those that like sci fi and steampunk are all sure to love this one. This book is one of my favorite reads of 2012. I am sure that it will hold a top spot come this years end....Not to be missed. 
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message 5: by Stephen (new) - added it

Stephen Great review, Jason. I'm hoping to read this soon.


Stephanie Griffin You have definitely talked me into adding this to my to-read list!


Jason It is China Mieville's amazing writing and imagination made accessible to a broad audience...really a great read!


message 2: by Angie (new) - added it

Angie Marked to-read for sure!


message 1: by Bobbie (new)

Bobbie Kitay Thanks, Jason. I'm second in line at the library for this book-can't wait! So in the meantime, I must pathetically read the reviews of others... Really great review, very well-written. Cheers.


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