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A Novel

eBook - 2012
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“Other names besides [Herman] Melville’s will surely come to mind as you read this thrilling tale—there’s Dune’s Frank Herbert. . . . But in this, as in all of his works, Miéville has that special knack for evoking other writers even while making the story wholly his own.”—Los Angeles Times
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. Spectacular as it is, Sham can’t shake the sense that there is more to life than the endless rails of the railsea—even if his captain thinks only of hunting the ivory-colored mole that took her arm years ago. But when they come across a wrecked train, Sham finds something—a series of pictures hinting at something, somewhere, that should be impossible—that 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.
“[Miéville] gives all readers a lot to dig into here, be it emotional drama, Godzilla-esque monster carnage, or the high adventure that comes only with riding the rails.”—USA Today
“Superb . . . massively imaginative.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Riveting . . . a great adventure.”—NPR
“Wildly inventive . . . Every sentence is packed with wit.”—The Guardian (London)
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group


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SCL_Justin Jul 20, 2017

Railsea is China Miéville’s a story about a boy named Sham who is working on a moletrain. A moletrain is like a whaling ship, but in the world of Railsea, there are no seas like we know them, only the loose earth that terrifyingly dangerous creatures (like moldywarpes and antlions) burrow through. This earth is crisscrossed by an impenetrably tangled network of rails that require expert navigation and track switching. The trains navigating the railsea are hugely various, some powered by sails, some by steam, diesel or even fusion. Out in the dangerous earth there are islands and communities, and many wrecked trains to salvage. There’s also the upsky which is poisonous and filled with alien beasts that sometimes drop inexplicable bits to earth for people to find. It’s all kinds of awesome.

Sham begins the story as a mediocre doctor’s apprentice, serving a captain in search of her philosophy, a giant ivory mole named Mocker-Jack that took her arm. Miéville does this thing where this creature she’s hunting is explicitly philosophical at the same time that it’s a physical beast that could crush a train. It’s directly inspired by Moby Dick but is wildly divergent from Herman Melville’s story.

Strangely enough not everyone likes China Miéville’s use of language. It’s filled with words that are made-up but make sense and I am a fan. The book is published as YA and while the language is intricate and ornate, it will knock the right reader’s socks off. Comparison-wise, it’s got similar themes to Ship Breaker, but the language is less straight-forward. The plot is stronger and more direct than Mechanique, which had a similar kind of language/mood.

I loved the hell out of this book and am only sad it’s over.

Mewsician Jan 23, 2013

Railsea is another highly inventive world from Mieville. If you like his writing and you like steampunk, what's not to like? I was completely tickled by the parallels to a certain ultra-famous novel. I found the plot twists surprising at every turn. I even exercised dormant grey cells in the visualization of a world in which semi-solid earth stands in for ocean. As an adult who left "young adulthood" behind long ago, I did not find the troubles of the main character exclusive or off-putting. I'd recommend this to anyone age 12 and up. Not the case with some of this author's other books.

JewelMcLatchy Dec 10, 2012

From page 1 to around 200, I was also in the "meh" school of thought about this book. At least the use of "&" vs "and" got explained on page 163, which is basically the main reason I continued to read to that point, otherwise I was ready to give up on the book. Around the halfway point I discovered I was actually invested in the story and wanted to continue reading to find out how it would end for Sham and the Shroakes. It's a decent novel in the end, but it takes some getting used to with the completely new vocabulary to learn and the very slow start to any real action. Not my favourite book by any means, but good enough that I'll try one of the author's other more lauded novels.

Jul 24, 2012

Loved "The City & The City" and "Embassytown." This one? Meh...

Jul 19, 2012

Pure garbage

Jul 05, 2012

Quite remarkably readable, in spite of absurdities and intellectual jokes. one of the writers whose influence Mieville acknowledges in an afterword is Joan Aiken, and this book is somewhat reminiscent of things like her "Wolves of Willoughby Chase".

Jul 05, 2012

Mieville is incredibly creative. This novel is obviously imitative of Moby Dick--except with trains instead of ships and moles instead of whales. And it is so much more. Great characters and an incredibly imagined and diverse world. I have the sense there are so many other stories waiting to be told about this place. It is also quite the page turner and even laugh-out-loud funny in some places--or maybe it is just that i marvel at his imagination.

Really worth a read.


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JewelMcLatchy Dec 10, 2012

In North Pittman is a particularly striking theology. There, one church memorably teaches that if all the trains were to be still, together, for one moment, if there were no wheels percussing the iron road, all human life would wink instantly out. Because such noises are the snoring, the sleep-breathing of a railsea world, & it is the rails that dream us. We do not dream the rails.


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