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Railsea by China Mieville
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Railsea (original 2012; edition 2012)

by China Mieville

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7915211,615 (3.99)87
Member:jmgold
Title:Railsea
Authors:China Mieville
Info:Del Rey (2012), Hardcover, 448 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
Tags:None

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Railsea by China Miéville (2012)

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Showing 1-5 of 51 (next | show all)
Good science fiction brings unique worlds to life. Great science fiction brings both unique worlds AND unique characters to life. In Railsea, China Mieville proves that he is a master of great science fiction. While it took a few pages for the story to take hold, Railsea made me forget all about Embassytown and harken back to everything I loved about The City & The City. It is not enough for Mieville to create places that are not just unique, but gritty and real. He also has the ability to unveil that world organically.

There is no telling in his storytelling. Everything is pieced together as you read along as a kind of information treasure hunt - and a satisfying hunt it really was. The character of Sham is perfectly portrayed and the characters he is surrounded by have their own wonderful voices. But more than anything, it is the epic world they inhabit that is the main character and I was challenged the whole book to live in that visceral world that Mieville drew me into. I really enjoyed every page of Railsea because it is unlike anything Mieville - or anyone else - has written before. Well worth picking up a copy. ( )
  csayban | Aug 31, 2014 |
Okay, I'm starting to understand that China Mieville is going to be another Neil Gaiman for me, that's to say another wildly popular author who thousands of other decently intelligent readers slaver over while I just scratch my head. I can see his talent, appreciate his politics and his prose (unlike with Gaiman, who's mediocre in both those aspects). And both these authors do have wonderful, original ideas for fantastic stories. But something doesn't grab me. I still haven't found the newer writers who belong in my pantheon with Ursula Le Guin and Phillip Pullman. ( )
  CSRodgers | Jul 29, 2014 |
I think this is another of those books where if I had read it at a different age, I would have loved it.

This is the story of Sham, a boy whose guardians place him as a cabin boy on a roving train. He slowly learns the ins and outs of life aboard the moler train and the railsea (analogous to our whaling ships and oceans, right down to the fantastical creatures lurking in the depths). On one of the wrecked trains they pass, he finds something that seems impossible, and that's what drives the rest of the story. Along the way, he meets up with pirates, explorers, hunters, subterrainers, friends, kidnappers, liars, and thieves.

One part Moby-Dick, one part Huck Finn, and half a jigger of Robert Louis Stevenson, with a pinch of Narnia and set on a dry(?) planet in a galaxy far, far away, Railsea has some major pluses:
--Exquisite and playful language
--Outstanding world-building
--No unrealistic precocious romance
--Strong female characters

In also has one major drawback: I just wasn't racing to read it. It took me more than a week to finish, when it should have taken a few days. I liked Sham, the trainfolk, the setting, etc., I just had trouble getting lost in the story. But I think if I had gotten hold of this one when I was, say, 11 or 12, I would have given it 5 stars.

I will also add that I'll never look at antlion hills the same way ever again. :-) ( )
  Pat_F. | Jul 25, 2014 |
4Q 3P (my VOYA code) I have always been a fan of neoclassics but I have only ever read books that have been based on Austen or Brontë novels. This book came at the recommendation of my partner who loves sci-fi. I very much enjoyed the gender swapped Captain Ahab character as well as all of the world building. Definitely a popular read for those sci-fi lovers and may be a good book to attract readers of classics to the sci-fi genre. ( )
  LoisHaight | Jun 8, 2014 |
I loved everything about this book so profoundly that I hardly know where to begin. So, bullet style:

The scenario: a world where most of the earth is covered by a confusion of rails, off which you must not venture or you'll be devoured by tunneling, burrowing creatures, while overhead there's breathable air and then a layer of poisonous upsky, in which fly monstrous creatures from other worlds.

The characters: protagonist Sham, a none-too-enthusiastic doctor's apprentice aboard a moling train (moling trains are like whaling ships); Captain Naphi, a female Ahab in pursuit of her "philosophy," the great white mole Mocker Jack; the mysterious siblings Shroak, the salvor Sirocco, plus pirates, the ferronavy of Manihiki, rail angels, Daybe the daybat--oh. So many marvelous characters.

The plot: a wrecked train, found incidentally by the moling train Medes, on which Sham serves, turns out to have clues to a route to the end of the known world, a place, so legend says, of great sorrow--or perhaps endless wealth. Such knowledge endangers all who possess it and drives Sham's decisions and his adventures.

The language: Oh, the language. I had to establish a special blog just to put quotes from this magnificent book. The humor: In small ways and big ones, the story elicits smiles (as when, for example, Captain Naphi asks someone to get to the point: "Do please," said Captain Naphi, "expedite this journey relevance-ward"--that's a phrase I'll have to adopt myself, I think.)

The postmodern style and references: could have been annoying if they were the focus of the book, but they're not: they're woven in so perfectly that they are merely, and completely, a delight.

Honestly, there needs to be a way to unlock a secret sixth star for books one really, really REALLY loves--and then I'd give this one that sixth star.
( )
3 vote FrancescaForrest | May 12, 2014 |
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To Indigo.
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This is the story of a bloodstained boy.
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Our minds we salvage from history's rubbish, & they are machines to make chaos into story.
Angels, unremittingly & absolutely sane, cannot but seem to poor humanity relentlessly & madly murderous.
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"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 & 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-colored 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 kind of treasure map indicating a mythical place untouched by iron rails--leads to considerably more than he'd bargained for. Soon he's hunted on all sides, by pirates, trainsfolk, monsters, & salvage-scrabblers. & it might not be just Sham's life that's about to change. It could be the whole of the railsea. Here is a novel for readers of all ages, a gripping & brilliantly imagined take on Herman Melville's Moby-Dick that confirms China Mieville's status as "the most original & talented voice to appear in several years" (Science Fiction Chronicle)"--Provided by publisher.… (more)

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