Railsea - China Mieville

Railsea - China MiƩville



Excuse my French.


Mieville is back on form, and now I remember why I liked reading him in the first place.


(I say back on form, as if his books were published in the order that I personally read them, but after two crashing disappointments in a row - Kraken and The City and the City - plus Un Lun Dun, which was just ordinary, I was beginning to lose hope.)


Railsea is Moby Dick, but YA and with trains instead of ships, and that sounds like it might be a disaster (especially since I've never read Moby Dick, and have no intention of trying), except Mieville knows exactly what he's doing, of course. Sham ap Soorap (how much do I love it that this book's main character has a name that doesn't automatically read as Western?) is an apprentice doctor on a moletrain, in a world where the ocean has become rails (hence, railsea) and all the burrowing creatures of the earth have become enormous and carnivorous and terrifying: moles like whales, leg-thick earthworms, earwigs big as very big things. (Probably don't read this if insects worry you.) This isn't the life Sham would have chosen; he yearns after salvage, the millennia of trash that litters the railsea, and when a brief chance comes to salvage something of his own, he finds a clue to something unthinkable: the end of the railsea.


There's all kinds of clever Literary stuff going on here (not just the Melvillean intertext), but to be honest I'm still riding the fangirl wave and have no hope of doing any kind of rational analysis. Suffice it to say, Railsea features an utterly fascinating world, well-paced and intelligent storytelling, great characters, an adorable pet bat, and an ending that just fucking nails it. It also really, really shows up Un Lun Dun for the weak and underpowered effort it is: Mieville can do YA, and he can do it well.


This was a library read, but I may will have to acquire my own copy.