On board the moletrain Medes, Sham Yes ap Soorap watches in awe as he witnesses his first moldywarpe hunt: the giant mole bursting from the earth, the harpoonists targeting their prey, the battle resulting in one's death and the other's glory. But no matter how spectacular it is, Sham can't shake the sense that there is more to life than traveling the endless rails of the railsea - even if his captain can think only of the hunt for the ivory-coloured mole she's been chasing since it took her arm all those years ago. When they come across a wrecked train, at first it's a welcome distraction. But what Sham finds in the derelict - a series of pictures hinting at something, somewhere, that should be impossible - leads to considerably more than he'd bargained for. Soon he's hunted on all sides, by pirates, trainsfolk, monsters and salvage-scrabblers. And it might not be just Sham's life that's about to change. It could be the whole of the railsea.
From China Miéville comes a novel for listeners of all ages, a gripping and brilliantly imagined take on Herman Melville's Moby-Dick that confirms his status as "the most original and talented voice to appear in several years." (Science Fiction Chronicle)
©2012 China Mieville (P)2012 Random House Audio
contemplator of typography, mixology, and archivism
China Miéville's writing is both dense and fragmented—reading it aloud is no easy task, so it is no great criticism of Jonathan Cowley to say that he is not suited for the role he has assumed in narrating Railsea. His reading is warm and personal, but he stumbles on the nuances of the language—those the finicky inflections and the odd staccato that characterizes the calculated casualness of Mr Miéville's distinct voice. Much is lost as a result, and the narrative seems murkier and less impressive than it does on the page.
It would have been more difficult to isolate the faults of Mr Cowley's performance had it not been for narrator John Lee's masterful renditions of previous works by Mr Miéville. Mr Lee has a rare crispness in his delivery that allows Mr Miéville's punctuation to survive the transition from the written to the oral miraculously intact. We can only hope that he will bestow his talent on Railsea somewhere down the line, for this novel, while not as awe-inspiring as Mr Miéville's best works, is still worthy of the best possible delivery.
Nothing I love more than a well-rounded character and intense plot.
China Mieville is verbose and dense, there's nothing more to be said about it. His descriptions are rich. Maybe I'll try reading the physical book, that does seem to go better.
Cowley's narration is simply flat. It sounds as though he was unfamiliar with the writer and the subject matter, and even the underlying theme of the book. I'm sure he's done great work previously, but I'm not sure he's suited to this type of dark, misty SF.
I love Jonathan Cowley's narration, but Railsea isn't a very engaging story.
It's got a lot of great concepts: an enormous continent crisscrossed by thousands of rail lines, moletrains that go out to harpoon huge burrowing animals at the risk of the lives of the captain and crew, a small boy trying to learn the moletrain life and failing miserably.
Railsea is a steampunk retelling of Moby Dick which constantly mocks its source material. In the Railsea world, every train captain is missing at least one limb and has a "phliosophy," that one animal they're trying to track down. This distain, in conjunction with a whiny, unlikeable main character, put me off the book early on. It's been awhile since I've read Moby Dick, and it's not my favorite, but at least Queequeg was interesting. There are no interesting characters in Railsea, only steam-powered prostheses and giant moles.
This is the fourth book by China Miéville that I have read and I continue to be amazed at his complete control over the English language. In this re-imagining of Moby Dick, he sounds like a completely different writer from the one who wrote Embassytown and The City and the City. It is obvious that this was done on purpose. The prose is choppy and harsh. New words are coined and the only clues to their meaning are in the narrative itself. At least one character’s name is an anagram of the corresponding character in Moby Dick (Abacat Naphi = Captain Ahab).
I have always had the idea that Miéville is trying his hand at every genre he can think of. If that is true, then this is not only his attempt at a classic hero myth saga but also his entry in the steampunk category. The hero myth works pretty well, with the young male protagonist braving the dangers of a hellish landscape in an attempt to arrive at “heaven” and learning about himself along the way. Meant as a young adult novel, I guess it works but there were many times when I felt the language and complexity of the story was far beyond anything most ‘tween readers would be able to parse. I would therefore recommend this book for an older reader, 14 or 15 years of age or older.
Where I really thought the book shone was in the setting. While not overly obvious, the steampunk flavor of the book was clear from the descriptions of the trains and the Captain’s mechanical arm, to mention only two. It was this technology, which grew more and more recognizable as the book hurtled along, that kept the setting grounded for me. Miéville has created a world so strange that at times I had to wonder if he had gone a bit too far, but there were just enough signposts to keep me from completely losing my bearings amidst the desolate wastes and the never-ending rails (Streggye = Easter Island? I think so, because supposedly Moby Dick was partially based on a real whale named Mocha Dick that was killed off Mocha Island, near Chile and not that far from Easter Island. Thus the frequent mention of the Stone Faces in Railsea refer to the stone heads on Easter Island).
The final payoff, with its sly critique of modern capitalism, was highly satisfying, while leaving the door open for a possible sequel. While I wait, I think I’ll go download an audio version of Moby Dick and see what inspired this fabulous fable. [I listened to Railsea as an audio book narrated by Jonathan Cowley in what I believe was a splendid Manchester accent that really lent grit to the tale].
Hey Audible, don't raise prices and I promise to buy lots more books.
In the inimitable style of China Mieville, this is weird fantasy. Enough other reviews can be found that describe Railsea's plot, if there really is a plot, and all I could add is that if this is a YA book and you are a young adult, you'd better be a smart one if you wish to read this book. The book is whimsical and fanciful but loaded with words that many of any of us might need a dictionary's help with.
If I had to describe the book in three words they would be: cute, imaginative and [just plain] fun. Oops... is that more than three words? A lot has been written about this being a spin off on Herman Melville's Moby Dick but there's a lot more going on here than that. As a matter of fact, keeping "track" of it all is a story in itself.
Listening to the story is like reading a comic book but unfortunately, unlike the print version, there are no pictures... ahhhhh. Oh well, the book's still train loads of fun and probably enjoyable for anyone with a warped imagination.
I'm a voracious audiobibliophile, mainly interested in speculative fiction, with the occasional mimetic fiction or non-fiction title sneaking in.
So. I came here on Mieville???s name, and on some early burbs which seemed to indicate that there would be some meatier undertones on power and hierarchy; but what I found instead was a fun, tracks-whirring-by story in a deeply stratified Mievillian world of old tech, advanced tech, giant moles, and the Railsea.
Definitely different. I know many people reading the paper edition have been frustrated initially by the extensive use of ampersands, but I think that is an intentional Verfremdung technique so listeners may miss out. Otherwise I felt like I could follow it better as an audiobook.
The performance was great, it certainly added to the experience.
I tried so hard to listen and enjoy this version of the story. Full disclosure: I've read Railsea a number of times prior to listening. I know the characters names, and journey, by heart. I love this story, but I didn't love the narrator.
I don't want to spoil it, but suffice it to say this is a story of trains, giant mole rats, and growing up.
He was okay, and I think that was the problem. Coming off of American Gods and Fractal Prince, I had high expectations for the narrator, and perhaps that's a bit unfair. However, it definitely felt like he was very unfamiliar with the story. The inflections in speech and annunciation patterns were a bit off. It sounded like he was having trouble getting into it, which in turn made it hard for me to lose myself in the telling.
Definitely. When you get to the end you'll know why.
Let me start by saying, I really enjoy Mieville's books, especially Perdido Street. I know that it can take a little while to get into his style of writing, but once you do, it's a wonderful ride.
Unfortunately for me, this book didn't do it for me. Even halfway through the book, I still didn't have a great visualization of what the world of Railsea really looks like, other than in generic terms. Compared to Perdido Street, the descriptions were very light, and not nearly as rich. I thought the character descriptions were great, and I really felt all of the appropriate empathy for the protagonists and disdain for the villains. This is also what frustrated me the most about the lack of depth in the Railsea world. I enjoyed the characters so much, but many times during the book I was still asking the most basic questions, "What the hell are angels?!?!", "Do they ever walk on land, or only in certain places, and how in the hell does that work?!?!".
The pace of the book was crisp and I felt it moved along with a good pace. Fast at all the right times, and slow at all the right times. It was a nice mix of adventure, mystery, drama, and just overall cool stuff.
Overall, if you're a Mieville fan than you will most likely enjoy this book, but don't expect one of his better books. If you're not a Mieveille, than I would not recommend this book as his books can be challenging to listen to at the best of times, and I would hate for your first experience to be this book as it could spoil you for his many other gems.
My reviews are always pending.
Railsea by China Mieville reads almost like a sci-fi western. It's like Moby Dick on a train on land. Almost reminds me of that classic 70's movie, Mad Max, on the railroad tracks traveling to some broken universal.
I am addictive to this author, but Railsea is a bit different from what I'm used to. It feels like that he wrote this one for a younger audience. but it is still very good. I just enjoyed the entire concept of the trains and mole. Trying to conquer some kind of land creature using harpoons is crazy idea, but it really works.
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