Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Railhead” as Want to Read:
Railhead
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Railhead

(Railhead #1)

by
3.98  ·  Rating details ·  2,544 ratings  ·  531 reviews
Come with me, Zen Starling, she had said. The girl in the red coat. But how did she know his name?
The Great Network is a place of drones and androids, maintenance spiders and Station Angels. The place of the thousand gates, where sentient trains criss-cross the galaxy in a heartbeat.
Zen Starling is a petty thief, a street urchin from Thunder City.
So when mysterious stra
...more
Hardcover, 312 pages
Published October 1st 2015 by Oxford University Press
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Railhead, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Jay Yes, the sequel is "Black Light Express". …moreYes, the sequel is "Black Light Express". (less)
Josh
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.98  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,544 ratings  ·  531 reviews


More filters
 | 
Sort order
Start your review of Railhead
Emily May
Apr 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult, 2016, sci-fi
“Aren’t you curious? Don’t you want to know what’s beyond that gate?”

This is a book for the curious. This is for those readers who get excited by possibility. If you like the idea of a great, wild universe spread out before you, full of mysteries and secrets, then I highly recommend you step into this world.

Reeve has created one of the richest, most imaginative worlds I have ever read about. It's set many centuries into our future, when Old Earth has been left behind and a great network of m
...more
Althea Ann
Cyberpunk-ish YA adventure, with an immediately-appealing, immersive writing style.

Zen Starling makes his way by petty thievery. He lives with his older sister and his mother, who appears to be a paranoid schizophrenic. Throughout his childhood, she's dragged them from one place
to the next, never settling down, insisting that they're being pursued by shadowy enemies. But as the adage says, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you. And that's what Zen learns, when afte
...more
Justine
Apr 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars rounded up. After thinking about it for a couple of days I rounded up my star rating on this one. This book is just so imaginative it really deserves it.

Railhead is set in a fantastic future where sentient trains transport people across vast distances to other planets by means of K-Gates, a technology pioneered and protected by Guardians, powerful AIs who long ago appointed themselves caretakers of humanity. Zen Starling is a petty thief who is minding his own business when opportunity
...more
Puck
Dec 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of "Six of Crows" and "A Long Way to A Small, Angry Planet."
“Thing about trains”, said Zen, “you’ll have to give them something, in return for carrying you. If you do, they’ll take you to any star-system that you want.”

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book with a world so rich. Philip Reeve wrote an absolute gem of a middle-grade sci-fi story, that will take you on a mind-blowing journey across the universe. You’ll meet many people of colour, droids who acts like humans, and these incredible beings called Hive Monks:

"He was a colony of b
...more
Dana
More middle grade than YA, but I did enjoy this sci-fi adventure. At times it felt a little jumbled and all over the place, however the uniqueness of the world kept me interested.

Giving personalities to trains was pretty cool. Hard to find much to say about this, while I enjoyed it for the most part it was still rather middle of the road. The ending was very frustrating. 2.5/5
Lindsay
Mar 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A heist, stargates, a space railway, sentient trains, robot friends and super-AIs. Why haven't you read this yet?

Humanity has spread to the stars via a network of K-gates which are only passable in a sealed environment traveling at speed, so ... trains. The K-gate network is a multi-world rail network traveled by super-advanced trains with AIs. In one corner of the galaxy "railhead" and thief Zen Starling seems to be in more trouble than usual.

Zen finds himself performing a "simple" heist, but s
...more
Alice (Married To Books)
Dec 27, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2017
Railhead was a book that I had seen in my local library and appealed to me since at the time, I was looking for a science fiction novel to read and enjoy. However after finishing this one, I'm feeling slightly disappointed by how the story turned out. Zen Starling is a thief and goes stealing lots of people's processions. He also lives in the Great Network which is full of trains and railway lines so exploring the areas is his main priority. He meets Raven who challenges him to steal from the Em ...more
Elle (ellexamines)
Jul 13, 2017 marked it as zzzzz-did-not-finish  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: z-2017reads
DNF at 100 pages in. I think I would've loved this book if I'd read it at a younger age. Unfortunately, I think this series is no longer for me. The characters are fine, the dialog is well-written, and the worldbuilding is interesting, but this is far more middle-grade than anything else. Not my thing.

The writing is really getting on my nerves. It's really immature, complete with that severe overuse of ellipses here. Oh well.


(Review not posted, as I don't have much of a review so much as a rea
...more
Emma
May 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science-fiction
Everyone was a passenger on a runaway train.

Stunning, imaginative, original. Character led Sci fi...LOVED it!
Helen
Jan 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sci-fi
4.5 Stars

What a delightfully weird read. I don't think even it's harshest critics could deny that this book brings something completely different to YA sci-fi, which is quite an achievement as this is definitely an over-saturated market. Railhead follows Zen Starling, a petty thief who's recruited by the mysterious Raven to infiltrate the most powerful family in the galaxy and steal something for him. The story is set thousands of years in the future and revolves around an intergalactic rail
...more
Kogiopsis
"The Guardians mean well, but they have shunted the whole human race onto a branch line of history, and we keep trundling round in circles. It's time someone changed that."


A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. No external considerations went into this review.

I've been meaning to read Philip Reeve for years, but the library gods have always conspired against me - the first Hungry Cities book is never in the same branch that I am, e
...more
Jason
May 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2016, e-books
5 Stars

Railhead Philip Reeve is a magical science fiction cyberpunk adventure. I rounded up this review to full marks because of how imaginative and just darn fun this adventure is. Zen Starling, is our main protagonist, our star of the story and is a young man(with a great name too).

This is a far future story. Zen is small time Thief and an otherwise mischievous young man that has spent most of his life moving from one place/world to another with his sister and crazed mother. Zen is a Railhea
...more
Tammy
Apr 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

The nitty-gritty: An instant classic, Railhead deserves a spot up there with some of the best young adult fantasy/science fiction ever written.


The train was gone, but he could still see her, striding along beside him in the sodium glow from the trackside lamps. The smell of space clung to her, rich and smoky. What was this that he was feeling? It frightened him, whatever it was.


Finding a book that gives you the same feeling as a beloved favorite is a rare thing, so rare, in f

...more
Montzalee Wittmann
Railhead by Philip Reeve is a superb fantasy/science fiction book. It is filled with so much unique imagination, it was refreshing. It was a guessing game throughout the book figuring out who was really the good guys, was our hero doing the right thing, how was he getting out of this, and so on... It was a great ride! The boy of the story was not who we think he is, the robot the helps him is more than a robot, so is others that help him. The man who hires him has many secrets that is later expo ...more
Lisazj1
4.5 stars, and I absolutely loved this! Wildly imaginative, incredible world building, and the same can be said for the story as well. Great, layered characters living in a very diverse society, and a heist with just a little romance mixed in had me glued to the page all the way to the end!

I had this book on my tbr list forever because it sounded interesting and it surpassed all my expectations. It definitely will not take me as long to get to Black Light Express.

This is an awesome gift from Th
...more
Ari
May 17, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-mm, yayayaya
The most interesting of this story is its world building.
Taken place centuries ahead (maybe, being realistic here ^^) when earth refers as old earth, where there's inter-galaxies train which have its own consciousness, when consciousness entity not always in human form, and a lot more I never imagine...

Story wise though, not so much. It's follow many YA stories out there.
Zen is a petit thief recruit by a mysterious man to steal an object. Zen get attached with his companion, an android girl. Whe
...more
Fred
This was a DNF for me.
Really really not for me!

This book is very pacy; it's very focused on galaxies and different worlds within space, it's obviously a sci-fi, and it follows a boy named Zen who is a thief and he enjoys using this system to his advantage and travelling between two different worlds.

It's very gritty teenage fiction; there's lots of action...that is every genre I don't like: YA, action, sci-fi. For that reason, I really didn't gel with this book.

If you enjoy really typical teenag
...more
Empress Reece (Hooked on Books)
Riding the Rails -4.5 stars...

Railhead is the story about a street urchin and thief named Zen Starling. One day he is approached by a mysterious stranger who hires him to infiltrate the Emperor's train and steal an heirloom. Zen is ultimately a "railhead" so he jumps at the chance to ride the rails and explore the Great Network, no matter what the cost.

What first attracted me to Railhead was the very cool train world that I got a glimpse of in the blurb. I never imagined though that it would be
...more
Lauren Stoolfire
Railhead (Railhead #1) by Philip Reeve has been on my tbr for ages and I've noticed that it's been incredibly popular at my library since it was released, so I was quite interested in finally picking it up. Reeve's world-building in this series opener is pretty outstanding. There's so much more I'd love to know about the history of the world than we got to see. Now, if I were as interested in the cast of characters, and for that reason I haven't yet decided if I want to continue with the series. ...more
Katie
Jun 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
I really loved this book. Sci-fi, steampunk and a splash of something magical :)

The characters were great, lots of twists and turns in the story,but the best part...THE TRAINS!!!
Sentient trains! Each with their own personalities. Some were total badasses some were super sweet and two of them were in love! How cute is that!? Anyway I'm totally looking forward to the next book in this series.
...more
Book Deli
The world building in this is absolutely mind-blowing. Everything is so insanely unique and interesting. Unfortunately, the actual plot and characters fell quite flat for me - the story was quite tropey and even felt kind of rushed, and I just didn't really feel anything for the characters or the relationships.

I'm still possibly interested in checking out the next instalments of this series, but I'll definitely be going in with the expectation that this seems to lean more towards middle-grade sc
...more
Mary
Zen Starling survives by stealing small objects and fencing them to Uncle Bugs (who is really a hive of bugs in humanoid form) while his mother deals with her mental issues and his sister works as a factory laborer. He is also a "Railhead" who loves to travel on the trains that connects the worlds together by tunnels called K-Gates which propel the cars through hyperspace. When a mysterious man named Raven asks him to steal a mysterious box, his life becomes extremely complicated and pulled into ...more
~Dani~ LazyTurtle's Books
Read this review and more at The Fantasy Nerds

Maybe officially 2.5 stars.

This is a story that with a setting that is absolutely gorgeous. The descriptions of all the planets and their beauty, the Great Network and K-Gates. The list goes on and on. Reading this at times felt like looking at art.

The concept of the Great Network and the gates in themselves are nothing really special. Trains that transport people incredibly quickly across the universe: we have teleportation in pretty every science f
...more
Shayla
Jan 12, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi-reads
Not bad!

I enjoyed this book off and on. The story focuses on a poor kid named Zen Starling who lives in the future where space travel is done on trains through K-gates, and the whole Network is controlled by the Emperor and his family who are sort of controlled by these god-like beings called the Guardians, who supposedly created the Network and K-gates. Zen gets tangled up in a scheme where he's used as a pawn and wouldn't have anything to do with the plot except that he was unwillingly throw i
...more
Lucy
Nov 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
A breathtakingly original and fast-paced scifi adventure. Railhead is one of those books that sounds absolutely ridiculous when you try to explain it - set in a future where travel between worlds is possible aboard sentient trains (yes, you read that correctly), Railhead follows street urchin Zen Starling as he attempts to steal a seemingly innocuous box from the Emperor’s private train, and finds himself caught up in events which could change the universe as he knows it forever.

Like a lot of bo
...more
Jessica
The world Phillip Reeve has created is AWESOME. Not since the Potter books has a book held my interest as well as this one did. I was completely surprised by how much i love this book. I have hopes that there will be a book two. It is a standalone, but there is so much possibility with the way this ended.

This book is set in the future and follows a young, poverish thief named Zen. Zen is a railhead and lives to ride in these trains that run from portal to portal around the universe were society
...more
Justine

An imaginative concept that suffered from having one-dimensional characters. For me, the characters are just as important as the plot and in this case, Zen Starling isn't characterized well, so there was never a point in my reading experience, where I connected with him.

There's also something about the writing that just didn't hook me to keep reading. I never felt any tension even in the action-packed scenes.

I was really looking forward to this. I'm terribly disappointed.
...more
Alice
Mar 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, carnegie-2017
I want to live inside Philip Reeve's head. That man has an incredible imagination.. I was fell in love with Mortal Engines, but OMG this new world he has created is even richer than that one. There is just so much to this book!

The world is a future humanity based upon a network of basically magical teleportation railways called K-Gates that allow incredibly fast travel between different planets. I love this! They were created by mysterious Godlike A.I. beings called the Guardians for the benefi
...more
Kristel (hungryandhappy)
“You know, sometimes a thing, a system, a creation grows so old, and corrupt, and weighed down by its own baggage, that all you can do is change it. Move on. Start afresh. It's frightening, but it has to be done.”

If you know me you’d know I love sci-fi books. Space, its secrets and its possibilities have always intrigued me. Imagining far away worlds on other planets, aliens and humans living together, a new kind of universe unfolded before our eyes, that’s something I want to witness but I know
...more
Tim
Nov 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
'Maybe everything needs to change.'

It's been years since I last read this book, and I noticed two things. 1) It was much better than I remembered. 2) I'd hardly remembered anything about it.

It's a book about trains - in space. Trains that are going through tunnels and come out on a planet at the other side of the galaxy. What more could you want? This is probably one of the most original settings and worldbuildings I've ever come across.

It all starts off rather simple: a boy who's been notic
...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Around the Year i...: Railhead, by Philip Reeve 1 9 Mar 19, 2019 05:32AM  
UCAS English 10 H...: August Reading Assignmnet 1 15 Sep 14, 2017 05:01PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Where The World Turns Wild
  • The Monsters of Rookhaven
  • Blazewrath Games (Blazewrath Games, #1)
  • Monstrous Devices
  • Beck
  • Island
  • The Swan Riders (Prisoners of Peace, #2)
  • Hacking, Heists & Flaming Arrows (Robin Hood #1)
  • The Last Spell Breather
  • Salt & Stone (Fire & Flood, #2)
  • Ransom (Bodyguard, #2)
  • Boy in the Tower
  • Boy, Everywhere
  • The Dragon in the Library
  • The Infinity Code  (S.T.O.R.M. #1)
  • The Ghost Machine  (S.T.O.R.M. #2)
  • The Viper Club  (S.T.O.R.M. #4)
  • Murder Club (Traces, #7)
See similar books…
2,149 followers
Philip Reeve was born and raised in Brighton, where he worked in a bookshop for a number of years while also co-writing, producing and directing a number of no-budget theatre projects.

Philip then began illustrating and has since provided cartoons for around forty children's books, including the best-selling Horrible Histories, Murderous Maths and Dead Famous series.

Railhead, published by Oxford Un
...more

Other books in the series

Railhead (3 books)
  • Black Light Express (Railhead, #2)
  • Station Zero (Railhead, #3)

Related Articles

Get ready for some out-of-this-world reading and some insane near-realities with the science fiction and fantasy books that are catching the...
266 likes · 28 comments
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »
“You know, sometimes a thing, a system, a creation grows so old, and corrupt, and weighed down by its own baggage, that all you can do is change it. Move on. Start afresh. It's frightening, but it has to be done.” 6 likes
“It’s called the Pyxis,” said Raven. “Don’t let the fancy name intimidate you. It just means ‘box’ in one of those Old Earth languages, Roman or Spanish or Klingon…” 5 likes
More quotes…