Railsea by China Mieville

Image from Wikipedia

Sham ap Soorap is a newly hired doctor’s assistant on a Moletrain with a captain eager to hunt down her philosophy: a giant white mole that ripped her arm from her body. However, when exploring a ruined train abandoned on the railsea leads to Sham finding pictures of images that should not exist (such as one lone train track leading from the railsea), Sham knows he has to find out who left the photos behind and learn what they were looking for.

I found Railsea in Barnes and Noble several years ago, but only recently finished it (which seems to be the case with a lot of the books I’m reading lately). I bought it because I thought the premise of the story sounded funny: like Moby Dick but with railways and giant moles. I’m not a big fan of Moby Dick, but I decided to give it a try because it was written by China Mieville, who wrote one of my favorite books, Un Lun Dun.

However, I was slightly disappointed with Railsea. I actually had started reading it around the time I had bought it, but I had trouble keeping focused on the story and so stopped reading it. I thought some of the sentence structure was weird, which would trip me up. Mieville also used ‘&’ instead of ‘and’, and although I thought that was pretty cool (something I’ve never seen before), it threw me off some. Mieville does explain in a later chapter why ‘&’ is used over ‘and’ which clears it up, but I feel like it’s something that should be explained earlier in the story. I also feel like the world is not explained enough, leaving me with a lot of questions.

Mieville had a tendency to break through his narration with information on the railsea or on certain characters. Those breaks would usually be a chapter about a page long, but I felt like it broke the whole flow of the story and that they were kind of pointless. The information he put in those chapters could have easily been placed inside the story and made so the story still flowed.

The one thing I did like was that the chapters were short. I always like when books have short chapters, or even long chapters with several breaks in the text because I don’t usually like to stop reading mid-chapter. So if I don’t have a lot of time to read, I know I can start a chapter and be able to finish it in a few minutes.

In my second time reading Railsea, I did finish it, and as I got further into it I did start to enjoy it more, but Railsea did not live up to what I was expecting it to be, and, at the end, left me feeling like: OK, that was nice. But nothing more.

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