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
The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi, published in 2009, won both the Hugo and the Nebula awards, as well as numerous other accolades, including having been listed as the ninth best book of 2009 by TIME magazine.
The Windup Girl has been, rightfully I think, compared to William Gibson’s Neuromancer, particularly for their shared vision of a near-future of powerful multinational corporations and reckless privatization. But whereas Gibson focused largely on information technology, Bacigalupi focuses on the future role of genetic engineering and biotechnology, imagining a world in which genetic materials become commodities worth killing for. Moreover, The Windup Girl, set in Thailand, also provides an interesting example of a future in which the West’s cultural and economic hegemony has been eclipsed by the uncomfortable bedfellows of multinational corporations and emerging markets. Continue reading Reviews: Windup Girl, Habibi, Hunger Games