Railsea by China Miéville

I read a lot. It’s one of my personal tenants for staying active with my own projects, the prose of other writers inspires me. I usually have a pile of 4-5 books stacked somewhere on my desk at any given time and it grows and shrinks as I churn through the stack continually ordering more. This year only a few of the books really stood out for me. However there have been a few gems, and unsurprising one of my favorites this year came from one of my favorite authors, Railsea from China Miéville.

Railsea is in part a retelling of Moby Dick, with a smattering of Robinson Crusoe, and a bit of Treasure Island – only in this retelling ships becomes trains and whales become giant moles or moldywarpes. It’s great fun and told through that new weird lens that is common in Miéville fiction.

The book follows Sham Yes ap Soorap (awesome name) as he explores the railsea – a endless tangle of railroad lines that twist and turn for hundreds and hundreds of miles – hunting for giant moles on the moletrain Medes. Strange ports, bandits, salvagers, ancient wrecks, and even a few angels fill the pages and the ride is fun from start to finish.

If you’re looking for a fun read, pick it up and let it take you along for the journey – I don’t think I could recommend it more.


  1. I perused this book once, I remember it sounding intriguing, but also a bit strange. I don’t know if the strange would overwhelm me or not; I currently think of myself as being more traditionalist.


  2. I can dig it. :) Compared to Miéville’s other work, this one is more approachable than say Iron Council, Perdido St. Station, or say Embassytown. (He’s one of my favorites so I have read ’em all, and they’re much different from typical fantasy titles.) As far as overwhelming goes… once you get past the cadence it’s engrossing, Miéville is a lot of things, but one thing the man does well is world building.


  3. I adored Railsea. I don’t usually go for YA, but if Mieville writes it, I want to read it. It may be strange, but for a Mieville, it is very accessible and approachable.


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