Review: Railsea

 

Call him Sham ap Soorap.

Go ahead. The references to Moby Dick in China Miéville’s cheerfully high-literary YA novel Railsea are as obvious as they are intentional. There’s the inexperienced young protagonist. There’s the vessel that’s seen better days. There’s the captain who can’t let go of the chase (even if it means losing a limb), and finally there’s the quarry — a great albino beast who seems to be leading the vessel and crew farther from shore and deeper into danger.

What there isn’t, however, is an ocean. It’s a remarkable act of world-building brio to attempt reworking Moby Dick within a largely waterless world but somehow Miéville pulls it off, and he does so by overlaying the vast, dry, ocean beds with thousands of miles of branching, intertwining, and even looping railroad track. In this bleak dystopian world whaling boats and cetaceans have long since given way to moletrains and rodentia. Continue reading Review: Railsea