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The Emperor's Railroad

(Dreaming Cities #1)

3.50  ·  Rating details ·  444 ratings  ·  101 reviews
Global war devastated the environment, a zombie-like plague wiped out much of humanity, and civilization as we once understood it came to a standstill. But that was a thousand years ago, and the world is now a very different place.

Conflict between city states is constant, superstition is rife, and machine relics, mutant creatures and resurrected prehistoric bea
Paperback, 176 pages
Published April 19th 2016 by St. Martins Press-3PL
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Average rating 3.50  · 
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✘✘ Sarah ✘✘ (former Nefarious Breeder of Murderous Crustaceans)
Actual rating: 3.82 starsalso known as a mathematical rating à la Choko.

Friendly warning: this review is ever so slightly longer than the novella it is about. You're welcome.

Zombies and dragons and knights, oh my!

My Little Barnacles…Please allow me to introduce…Slightly Improbable Book of the Year (SIBotY™) #2! First there was City of Lights, with its dubious mix of Sci-Fi and full-on UF! Now we have The Emperor's Railroad, with its fishy combination of Fantasy stuff and Dystopian stuff and Horror stuff! And as disastrous as this recipe might sound, it bloody works! Now that's some pretty glorious cooking, if you ask me.

See? Evintroduce…Slightlymy!
Originally reviewed at Bookwraiths.

My rating is 3.5 stars.

The Emperor’s Railroad by Guy Haley is a genre blending delight, mixing zombies, dragons, guns, swords, and knights with a post-apocalyptic, dystopian world. This mesmerizing recipe serving up something fresh and original, something unique and creative; something all fans of speculative fiction would do well to try, because the future for the Dreaming Cities series certainly appears very bright.

Told from the point of view of a 12-year-o/>The
Dec 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a short story or novella and it reads like one: a slice of a post apocalyptic fantasy tale with angels, dragons, zombies and knights. An enjoyable story told to us through the eyes of a 12 year old boy.
Apr 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: post-apocalyptic
Falling somewhere between King's The Dark Tower saga and Brooks' Shannara series, as seen through the achingly vibrant lens of Discovery's Life After People, The Emperor's Railroad is a remarkably unique approach to post-apocalyptic fantasy. While I felt the choice of a 12-year-old narrator put some unfortunate constraints on the tale, and held it back from realizing its true potential, I am genuinely excited to see where Guy Haley goes with his Dreaming Cities series.

Here we find so
I received this from the publisher at no cost.

I'm not a huge zombie-story fan, so this story wasn't really aimed at me. That said, turns out I can be quite a fan of your post-apocalyptic, back-to-vaguely-old-west-America stories, so that aspect was quite enjoyable. I do like the image of human creations being subsumed into nature.

Quinn, the hero of the story, is intriguing, and through him we get glimpses into the rest of the world that the story is set in. There are angels and drag
Stephen Kozeniewski
When I was in high school, I remember getting a certain feeling when I sat down with an assigned reading novel - GRENDEL or A SEPARATE PEACE or THE GREAT GATSBY or what have you. I would start out daunted, and then as I read, realize that it was really a simple book. The prose was tight, the story was easy to follow, and then as I got farther and farther I started to realize that what I had thought was simple was well plotted and immensely enjoyable. There was a reason, in other words, why these ...more
Jun 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

So the book starts off with a zombie scene. But it's not really a zombie book. Abney, our narrator, is looking back and telling the story (almost a folk tale) about how he and his mother traveled from New Karlville after its devastation by zombies through rough and dangerous country in the company of a knight. This knight, Quinn, has Abney fascinated, since there aren't many knights anymore.

Aug 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
I didn’t actually read much about this beforehand; I picked it up because it’s one of the novellas, and I’ve generally found them worth trying, even if they haven’t all been my thing. I was a little wary in that I’ve read part of one of Guy Haley’s books before and didn’t really get into it. Not so with this one: it has a strong voice and it’s set in a fascinating post-apocalyptic world. I’d love to know more about it, and I’ll definitely pick up the sequel. The main character, Abney, is ...more
Timothy Boyd
Nice Fantasy/Apocalyptic blend for a story line. Interesting main character and world setting that I hope to learn more of the history of as the series progresses. I will definitely try the 2nd book. Nice entertaining read. Recommended
Dec 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Review also published here

Disclaimer: I received an ARC for this novella from the publisher. However, I had already preordered a copy the moment I saw it, back in October 2015, long before I was approached by Tor. Make of that what you will.

The Emperor's Railroad is a science fantasy novella set in a post-apocalyptic future. Mankind has declined, and the cities and technologies of old are in ruins and forbidden. Angels govern the world from their Dreaming Cities, fickle in their attentions and approval./>
Elena Linville
Apr 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
You can find this review and more on my blog.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you a little gem in post-apocalyptic genre? This is a relatively short novella (only a little over 100 pages long), but it's packed full of goodies: huge and very interesting world, a great catastrophe the cause of which is not fully explained, strange beings that might or might not be angels, a mysterious knight, and an engaging narrator. What else would you need for a wonderful book?

Our narrator, Abney, is
Apr 26, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: dystopian
The Emperor's Railroad is a post-apocalyptic, dystopian novella.

A zombie plague, knights and angels (?), a mechanical beast, protected compounds....

The story is told in retrospect by Abney, who was a twelve-year-old boy fleeing with his mother from a town overrun by zombies at the time of the story. Now, Abney is an old man, but his stories still carry weight.

Abney relates how Quinn, a wandering knight, aids Abney and his mother on their journey to a place of safety. There are some
Bridget Mckinney
Apr 07, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
The Emperor’s Railroad is an utterly pedestrian story that is only rescued from total mediocrity by some intriguing world building. Unfortunately, Guy Haley’s novella never manages to full utilize the potential of its setting, and the ending leaves the reader with far more questions than answers.

Read the full review at SF Bluestocking.
Scott Firestone
Oct 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Emperor's Railroad is all about the world-building. Because, to be honest, not that much happens in this novella.

In our future, after some vague war brought about by creatures known as Angels, America is divided into Kingdoms and Dreaming Cities. Virginia. Pittsburgh. Columbus. These places have Knights, who do the bidding of the Angels and rulers.

And Quinn is a Knight. Of where, I won't say. Because it's a spoiler, and it's COOL. He's got two swords, and a gun. And he needs them, because
Nov 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I have always been a fan of apocalyptic fiction. Maybe reading George R Stewart's Earth Abides as a kid is what did it to me. In The Emperor's Railroad approximately one thousand years have passed since the fall of man. As this is the first book in a series author Guy Haley does not spend a lot of time explaining things-a Knight (Quinn) agrees to transport a boy and his mother thru dangerous territory to a place of (relative) safety. The boy (Abney) narrates the story and we get to witness a wor ...more
May 01, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ron by: Jon
“The future is ashes, the past is treasure. When you get where I am the past’ll look brighter to you as well.”

A finely-told novella about a dystopic future with zombies. Normally, I would have quit before discovering how well written it is. Well crafted.

“God has redeemed us to the level we deserve.”

The zombies cost Haley a star. They are an unnecessary, unimaginative shortcut. He’s good enough; if he’d thought about it he could have accomplished the same effec
Julie (Manga Maniac Cafe)
4 stars

I enjoyed this, but the narrator's frequent descriptions of his surroundings were confusing and not very interesting. I loved the amount of action, though, and really liked Quinn, a knight of the Dreaming Cities of Atlantis. There are zombies, a dragon, and plenty of hardships to keep you turning the pages. I'm looking forward to the next installment of the series. This was a short novel, providing a quick, entertaining read.
May 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This was absolutely stellar, I think I have offically changed my mind about novellas, This one is loaded down with a great post apocalyptic, dystopian world . Engaging characters, and strangely to me, a British author who does southern characters well.

Scifi, fantasy, horror all smashed into a 100 plus page package, read this one, you won't regret it.
Jun 27, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: arc, 2016
I'm honestly not a zombie fan, and I didn't realise that this is essentially a zombified novella. However, what kept my interest was the way Guy Haley presented this post-apoc world as a kind of SciFi/Western/Fantasy mash-up, with a strong and distinctive narrator. I just wasn't the right audience for this one.
Jul 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobooks
First 3/4 of this piece was interesting, well written, but very slow and a bit un-engaging. However, I loved the last 1/4, the action, the drama, the interpersonal relationship. Pretty encouraging piece from Haley.
Apr 24, 2016 rated it it was ok
This could have been a great tale. Dystopian. Fantastic. Full of interesting characters, but the dialogue is as weak as the plot is engaging. This story could have been a classic; instead it is a literary miss. Sad.
Paul Freeman
Jan 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good story. I particularly enjoyed the dystopian world created by the author.
3.5/5 Rating Review originally posted at MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape

Fantastic history to this world

*Disclaimer: I was provided with a review copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion and review

Zombies, machines relics, prehistoric beasts, angels and heaven, and knights. These things may not seem like they would belong together, but for this story they do. Guy Haley has taken these seemingly unrelated items, and put them together to create a truly fantastic world and history.

Abney and hi/>Fantastic
Rachel (TheShadesofOrange)
Jun 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
4.0 Stars
This is a fantastic example of a story that seamlessly blends together elements of fantasy, science fiction and horror into a cohesive narrative. While the plot was fairly predictable, I still thoroughly enjoyed the reading experience. From the first sentence, I was drawn to Quinn. He is a pretty classic badass character, yet I still loved reading about him. The story is told from the perspective of a child, which isn’t normally my favourite narrative choice, but it worked fairly well in th
May 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
In the not so distant future, in a world where the dead walk and the angels rule everything, a boy and his mother undertake a treacherous journey to find their only living relative. The only thing standing between them and an army of zombies (and worse) is a knight who refuses to wear his badge.

Quinn is an agent of the angels, one of the only remaining knights in existence. But in the wake of the war and following the death of the Emperor, there's not much for a knight to do - offici
Book Haunt
This book is told from the POV of Abney, a 12 year-old boy that was born in the year of the Dominion of Angels 1097. Abney and his mother Sarah Hollister are on the road, trying to get from the destruction of their hometown to safety with a cousin in the town of Winfort.

The two must cross the Emperor’s Railroad in Charleston, Virginia to get to Winfort. So much easier said than done in the day and age that they live in. The Kingdom of Virginia is in constant turmoil. The states have been at war
Dec 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Tor novella series has been pretty reliable this year. I haven't liked all the ones I've read, but of the ones I did like, I liked them quite a bit. I'm usually hesitant to read shorter works, since I don't always feel like they have enough time to develop plots and characters enough, but I also believe that a work should only be as long as necessary, and they've hit that mark well. The Emperor's Railroad is another good one.

The novella is set in the future of our world, after a
Sachin Dev
Apr 06, 2016 rated it liked it
This is probably my grouch against a novella - that it conceals much more than what is revealed. And that is my chief concern about this novella. There is a lot of intrigue, a lot of suspense built up but ultimately, there wasn't any pay-off for me as a reader.

I loved the story - no doubts about that part. This was my introduction to Guy Haley and he did have my attention right from the start. Narrator Abney recounts his first meeting with a Knight of the Dreaming Cities, Quinn who saves him an
Mar 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Just finished this one in a sitting! I was thoroughly enthralled throughout. It was told in one of my favorite methods - old person reminiscing about their life or a memory. The vernacular was simplistic to match the mood/world, but it fit really well with the way the story was being told and who the narrator was. It reminded me a lot of how Mark Twain told many of his stories.

The world building was impressive given the short length of this novella. I fell right into the world from t
Apr 07, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: llegits-2016
A strange mixture of zombies, knights, angels and dragons in a post-apocaliptic setting. It's interesting and exciting sometimes, but I need more information about what had happened to our world to fully enjoy the experience. Waiting for the next novella located in this universe.

English review:
Spanish review:
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Guy Haley is the author of Crash, Champion of Mars, the Richards and Klein series, The Dreaming Cities and others. He is a prolific contributor to Games Workshop's Black Library imprint having written books including the bestselling Dark Imperium, Dante, Pharos and The Devastation of Baal.

Other books in the series

Dreaming Cities (2 books)
  • The Ghoul King (Dreaming Cities, #2)
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