Railsea

Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books

Review

China Miéville is known for his brilliantly imaginative science-fiction and fantasy, and Railsea is no exception. Taking inspiration from writers as diverse as Joan Aiken, Herman Melville, Ursula Le Guin, Robert Louis Stevenson and Spike Milligan, this epic adventure is a truly remarkable book.

On board the moletrain Medes, young doctor's apprentice Sham ap Soorap watches in awe as he witnesses his first moldyworpe hunt. But no matter how magnificent the event, Sham feels that there must be more to life than his captain's quest to hunt the savage ivory-coloured mole that obsesses her. Instead, he feels increasingly drawn to the scavengers - those who search for 'salvage'. When the Medes encounters an empty, wrecked train, Sham has the chance to discover some salvage of his own, but what he finds soon plunges him into danger. Before very long he is whirled into an action-packed adventure, hunted by pirates and savage-scrabblers, chased and abducted. Gradually, Sham begins to realise that there is more at stake in his discovery than he could ever have imagined: the truth about the world of the Railsea itself.

Set in an intriguing world, with a compelling hero in Sham, plenty of humour and action and a suspenseful plot as full of twists and turns as the tangle of tracks the trains navigate, Railsea is a captivating adventure story. Yet it is also a complex, well-crafted and sophisticated work of fiction. Miéville's distinctively playful use of language and occasionally dense narrative style mean it is best suited to more confident and adventurous young readers; however, whilst it is undoubtedly a challenging read, those who take it on will be enchanted by this witty, warm-hearted and wildly creative coming-of-age tale.

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