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RAILSEA by China Miéville


by China Miéville

Pub Date: May 15th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-345-52452-2
Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Moby-Dick meets Kidnapped by way of the Strugatsky brothers’ Roadside Picnic: Another astonishing blend of cyberpunk, steampunk, fantasy and science fiction, from the hugely talented author of Embassytown (2011, etc.).

In a world of endless land threaded and interwoven with train tracks, gigantic and voracious subterranean rats, stoats, millipedes and the like, layer upon layer of archaeological remains and a poisonous upper sky inhabited by flying angels, Capt. Naphi of the moletrain Medes hunts Mocker-Jack, a colossal yellow molelike moldywarpe. Other moletrain captains like Naphi are equally obsessed with pursuing their “philosophy,” while other trains make a living salvaging the plentiful and often incomprehensible detritus of past civilizations and the discarded junk of passing aliens, while still others ply more orthodox trades. Young Sham Yes ap Soorap is Medes’ apprentice doctor, a profession he has little aptitude for or interest in. While investigating a wrecked train, with which the landscape is littered, he discovers an ancient camera card whose pictures show, impossibly, a part of the Railsea that has narrowed down to a single set of tracks. Who took the pictures, and where might the tracks lead? Many folks, including pirates and some of Medes’ own crew, dream of treasure. Miéville’s omniscient, detachedly amused narrator (whose identity is eventually, slyly, revealed) follows these and other points of view in relating a yarn that can be read as pure adventure, tongue-in-cheek homage, gleeful satire or philosophical meditation. It’s billed as YA and, indeed, Miéville’s usual high level of violence and sex is toned down, often to the point where the characters appear gender free (in one case, literally so).

 Eye-bulging escapades tempered with invention and mordant wit, perfectly complemented by the author’s own pen-and-ink drawings of the Railsea’s weird denizens.