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Black Light Express

(Railhead #2)

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  772 ratings  ·  130 reviews
Zen Starling and Nova the android girl have traveled between worlds before. They come from the Great Network, a web of twisting routes, K-gates, and sentient trains that allows instant passage through the galaxy. But this time is different—they’re hurtling into the unknown through a gate that shouldn’t exist, knowing they can never go back.

Now the Network is on the brink o
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published August 1st 2017 by Switch Press (first published October 10th 2016)
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Dean See:

Here he (the author) mentions that Black Light Express is "the first sequel to Railhead", which strongly …more

Here he (the author) mentions that Black Light Express is "the first sequel to Railhead", which strongly suggests to me that a 2nd sequel is in the works.

I'd expect so, since nearly every (other) plot thread is still hanging; only Zen & Nova's romance arc has any real kind of conclusion at the end of "Black Light Express".(less)

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Average rating 4.20  · 
Rating details
 ·  772 ratings  ·  130 reviews

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Emily May
Oct 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult, 2016, sci-fi
4 1/2 stars. A seriously underrated, underread series.

Reeve has created a whole universe of fantastical wonders in Railhead and Black Light Express. To be honest, I wasn't rushing out to read this sequel because I worried it couldn't possibly be as good as the first one, which introduced some of the best world-building I've ever seen. As I said in my review, Railhead is a book for the curious, for those who ask questions, and wonder about the secrets and mysteries of the great wide universe. But
Jun 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of Becky Chambers
4 stars for this sci-fi novel that will be blow any (middle-grade) reader’s mind to the galaxy and beyond.

Why this series is so unknown and underrated is a big mystery to me, because the Railhead books have of the most incredible and creative world-building I’ve ever read. In these novels the universe is huge but not overwhelming, rich with details but never overcomplicated. You’ll find alien races, virtual gods, androids or “Motoriks” and humans living side by side – and it works. It works amaz
Mar 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Zen and Nova have passed through the new gate into a whole new part of space with strange aliens and a whole new rail network. But they've left chaos in their wake, with the new Noon Empress in a difficult position, Chandni Hansa literally on ice and Malik marooned on Desdemor. There are mysteries to unravel on both sides of the new railgate, with new enemies and old friends as well as the secret of the Railmakers themselves.

I love the expansion of the Railhead universe in this book. The Web of
Dec 31, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, young-adult
I don't know why this series has so few ratings... These books are so extraordinarily imaginative and rich in detail, it's a joy to join the leads on their journey through the galaxy. But in this one, there was a bit too much going on for one book, so 4 wonderful stars it is!
Aug 10, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
I struggled to re-connect to the characters in this second outing for the sentient trains and the interstellar rail network they run on and the humans they carry with them. Oddly, it's the machines, particularly Nova, the android, that I had most sympathy with. The revelations were disappointingly similar to those of another SF novel that is much better and the series in general suffers from my constantly being reminded of other writers' books. Nevertheless it's an amusing enough adventure and I ...more
4.5/5 STARS

In book 1, Railhead, readers enter a universe in which humans can travel through space on sentient locomotives using “K-gates” to other worlds. No one knows where these mysterious portals came from or who laid the rails, but legend has it that the Station Angels of book 1 had something to do with these mysterious “railmakers.” Book 1 also introduces us to a cast of humans, machines and a small number of robots called “motorik” who are nearly human themselves. The plot revolves around
Karyn Silverman
Apr 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya, arcs, vw, specfic, z2017-reads
So good I almost can't stand it. The world, the characters, the nonstop action that doesn't sacrifice language or character - Reeve is a freaking genius and I don't understand why he's not better known among younger readers because omg these are so worth reading.
Apr 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, young-adult
The first book in this series was absolutely amazing, this one is just as good. I highly recommend this series. It has everything you could possibly want in a young adult steampunk/fantasy.

The world this is set in is so amazing, I have never encountered anything similar. The last book introduced us to world where you could travel between interstellar train stations, where trains are living beings with attitude, there are hive beasts made up of a community of insects that think as one, and so,
Railhead ended with interstellar thief Zen Starling and his robotic friend and lover Nova escaping the encroaching forces of the Network Empire by riding their train through a newly-built teleportation gateway to an entirely alien railway network. That sentence sounds completely bonkers if you haven’t read Railhead, but the general gist is that it’s a space opera set in a far-future universe where people travel on intelligent trains, moving between different star systems by virtue of a network o ...more
Aug 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The nitty-gritty: Magical, exciting, emotional and full of human truths, Black Light Express takes what Philip Reeve started in Railhead , expands upon it, and makes it even better.

Zen sat awkwardly watching, with Nova’s head on his lap as if it were a bag or something. He had imagined finding Nova alive, and he had been afraid of finding her dead, but he had not prepared himself for finding her in pieces. He’d been wondering a lot about what made someone human, and he had been read

May 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just now I got notified that book 3 is out, and when I went to check out when the Audio-version will be available I saw that Book 2 was not reflected in my reading list as "Read" - WHAT? How can this be!!! Many things can be said about this series. The world-building here is absolutely phenomenal! The characters are great, and the trains (You get me if you read this, if not just go with it) well they are are in a separate category all together x I am so excited for book 3, am thinking of re-read ...more
Eleanor (bookishcourtier)

Well, wow. I was not expecting this. Though to be honest, now I think that my review of Railhead was a little harsh. I just really don't think I appreciated it enough when I read it. I really enjoyed this one though! I was really into it and appreciated the world building a LOT more this time. Though technically I don't think this should be on the longlist, as it IS a sequel, and how can you judge a sequel alone? And this isn't a companion novel, you cannot read
Chris Callaghan
Dec 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastical sequel, told with an epic imagination.
Book Gannet
Dec 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved Railhead – it was pure imagination and wonder, wrapped up in adventure with amazing characters – so I was excited for this sequel. And while I did enjoy it, I also didn’t enjoy it quite as much.

There is still wonder here. The Web of Worlds that Zen and Nova discover is incredible, full of strange and mysterious races, but this story isn’t really much about them. In fact, even though Zen and Nova start this book, they then vanish for a big chunk of it while we catch up with other characte
A Severs
Sep 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Stella ☆Paper Wings☆
4.5 stars!!!
Apart from taking a hecka long time to read, this was a fabulous book! I really didn't like Railhead much, but I liked it enough to continue with the series, and I'm so glad I did!

The world so interesting! I think the author was really able to run with it in this book because we were already acclimated to the basic world. There are so many interesting new creatures, cultures, planets, and ideas. It was so much fun.

It was hilarious! This is exactly my kind of humor. The talking trains
Aug 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf-fantasy
Revolution and startling revelations amid much violence, many train chases, and narrow squeaks galore. Not sure whether this is the end or the story will could go either way. But I'm willing to read any sequels that might come down the pike, because the world building is so good.

Choice lines:

"It was really boring, being just a head."

"It was always a problem, what to do with old trains. You couldn’t just scrap them when they became outmoded. Trains were at least as self-aware as peo
Lulu (the library leopard)
Oh, that was so good! Really interesting and imaginative! This series really has some of my favorite world-building–galactic trains, artificial intelligence gods, a world built on the ruins of mysteriously destroyed alien society. I'm really excited for the conclusion in to this series now!

(view spoiler)
Well, that was a long read. I read the first in the 'Railhead' series, 'Railhead', last year, it was actually the first novel I read last year, and the long and short of it is - I fell in love. I fell in love with Philip Reeve's interpretation of science fiction, which was fantastical, and mind-bending, and whimsical, yet tender and big-hearted.

“These are new worlds, Zen. We don't have to be what we were any more. We can be anything that we want. We can be humans together.”

There was so much to
Sara Hollingsworth
Mar 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Welp, I'm crying now. This book series has been so beautiful and wonderful so far. I don't know how you can possibly top these two books. Makes me excited for when I can get my hands on the third one.
Father Reading
May 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A really fantastic idea, richly imagined and full of excitement and intriguing characters.
This series deserves to be far better known.
May 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rare to find a 2nd in a series as strong as book one, but this one's every nano-bit as good as the first or better. The continuing exciting, entertaining and thought-provoking adventures of thief Zen Starling, his Motorik truelove Nova, Empress Threnody and my favorites, those brave quirky amazing sentient trains. They ride the rails throughout the universe, trying to understand it, experience its wonders, and save it and themselves from various narrow-minded, selfish, and nefarious types. Highl ...more
Jun 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I just love this series. I think there were elements of Star Trek TNG with Data/Nova head and making things better for humanity. I really enjoy this whole world in space and the continuation of the first book. It didn't disappoint. Also enjoying the gender diversity and fluidity of the series.
M. Jones
Dec 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've literally just finished Black Light Express 5 minutes ago, and it's probably the worst time to rate it or to write a review. There is still that feeling of emptiness, like a love affair being over, because the past is the past and the future can never be unknown again: the story is finished and you know how it ends. Except in this case there will be a third part!
I've made no secret elsewhere of my admiration for Philip Reeve's work, and Black Light Express certainly does many of the things
May 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya, science-fiction, ebook, ng
Note: e-ARC received through NetGalley courtesy of the publisher. Thanks to Switch Press.

Oh, Black Light Express... Not as good as Railhead. Let's get that out of the way. It's good in its own right, though, and manages not to suffer from second book disappointment syndrome. Where Railhead was about Zen and Nova's journeys and getting readers into the world, Black Light Express is about taking things elsewhere. The two books mesh together well and it helps to have read the first to really unders
Aug 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Black Light Express is Philip Reeve’s just-as-good-as-the-first-book follow up to Railhead, continuing the exhilarating romp while expanding the universe and its inhabitants, as well as digging a bit more deeply into the hidden history of the created world and offering up some more page time to some of the first book’s secondary characters. Warning, there will be some inevitable spoilers for book one (you can just stop here with the take-away that I recommend the duology). First one begins in th ...more
Sep 13, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed

Cross-posted fromNightjar's Jar of Books.

[Warning: This is a spoiler-free review, but I will be referencing some events from the first book in the series, so if you haven’t started it at all yet, beware. Click here for my review of Railhead.]

Zen and Nova have escaped from the Network Empire aboard the Damask Rose, and must now make a new life for themselves in an entirely new world, unknown to humans, but far from uninhabited. Meanwhile, Threnody - now Empress - releases the criminal Chandni

He didn’t have a plan. He thought love and anger would be enough.

I'm glad I waited this much to read the second book of the Railhead series because maybe now I won't have to wait long for the third and last book. It’s already the end. It’s never easy.

Zen and Nova took the new gate to an unexplored part of the galaxy and will meet quite a few interest characters. Their love is pure and adorable, never too much, never forced, just right for the kind of book we’re reading. There’s nothing wrong abo
Becky B
While Zen Starling and Nova are exploring the Web of Worlds beyond the new K-gate that Raven opened, the Prell family is plotting to take the empire out of the hands of Threnody Noon with the support of a Guardian. Soon Threnody finds herself on the run with Chandni Hansa, former con artist and thief now for some reason hired as Threnody's lady in waiting. Back in the Web of Worlds Zen and Nova start to figure out that the Railmakers came from an area of the Web of Worlds known as the Black Ligh ...more
Jan 20, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
I was handed this book for work. I knew it was part 2 of the series, but since I couldn't get my hands on part 1, I decided to make the most of reading this one.

The world of 'Black Light Express' is a bit confusing if you haven't been properly introduced, especially given you're dealing with talking trains and people in freezers, but you can get swept away pretty quick.

What threw me most was how the beginning chapter dealt with Zen Starling and Nova, before moving on to Chandni Hansa and Empres
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Around the Year i...: Black Light Express, by Philip Reeve 1 7 Apr 16, 2019 02:35AM  

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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

Other books in the series

Railhead (3 books)
  • Railhead
  • Station Zero (Railhead, #3)

News & Interviews

There's something great about a paperback book: They're perfect book club choices, you can throw them in your bag and go, and they've been out in...
27 likes · 5 comments
“These are new worlds, Zen. We don't have to be what we were any more. We can be anything that we want. We can be humans together. - Nova” 1 likes
“Nobody wants trouble,' said Chandni. 'Trouble just find us.” 1 likes
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