Rating: 3 stars

Sham ap Soorap is a doctor’s apprentice on a moletrain. Hunting the giant moles that roam the earth below the railsea – the vast network of rail lines that covers the world, forming an ocean out of which islands of hard rock poke, where the settled folk live. Finding a wrecked train and salvage within it, Sham finds something that takes him on an adventure to the edges of his world, and beyond.

This book didn’t really grab me as much as I’d hoped it would, and not as much as MiĆ©ville’s previous YA novel, Un Lun Dun. Sham is a likeable protagonist and his escapades are interesting. The world building is pretty amazing and some of the imagery is stunning. However, the Moby Dick-esque story was let down, for me, by the ending. While I can appreciate the humour of the situation, I wanted more answers about the railsea, and some of the tantalising hints as to what it is and what happened to the people that created it, leaving behind only myths and religions.

The Moby Dick references came thick and fast, and I rather liked the idea that many railsea captains had their own ‘philosophy’, single-mindedly chasing after a single giant animal for their own murky reasons. The other characters in the book were all interesting in their own way, but the ending just sort of deflated the whole book for me. You might say that it ran out of steam.

Book details

ISBN: 9781447213673
Publisher: Pan Books
Year of publication: 2012

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