Despite being a young adult fiction novel, Railsea is a very interesting steampunkish novel. Railsea is imaginative and its story brings sufficient novelty to be worth a read. It is written by China Miéville, possibly the greatest author since Mark Twain.
The world of Railsea is one where there are no oceans, only a sea of rails that crisscross a dangerous prairie landscape where all sorts of carnivorous animals live below the ground waiting for a unfortunate person to walk by.
The railsea is broken up by islands of solid rock. These islands of rock are where the cities and nations are located. Men and women from all nations and backgrounds crisscross the railsea in search of fame and fortune.
The story of Railsea centers around a young man name Sham who works on a train that hunts the giant moles that live under the railsea. Sham is a moletrain doctor’s assistant and not a very good one. While not miserable, he would prefer to be a salvager, someone who searches the railsea for ancient technological artifacts from a more advanced era.
As the story progresses, the life and that of the entire crew of the moletrain change as they encounter information that will lead them to the edge of the railsea.
It’s a fun story and avoids a lot of the clichés other similar steampunk works at times fall into.
How it ends (don’t read if you don’t want to know): Sham and the crew of the moletrain outrun their pursuers, both people and moles, to find the end of the railsea. Across a giant chasm is a single rail bridge. When they cross the bridge, they discover the disappointing descendants of the railsea’s creators. And a sea made of water on which to set sail.
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An entertaining, if improbable, story! Like the Harry Potter novels, this was published with both adult and YA covers. I bought both. Far from avoiding cliches it relishes them, echoing MOBY DICK, Greek mythology, and more. It is very much on the far fantasy end of the Steampunk spectrum, more magic than technology.