Labour Research July 2012



China Miéville, Macmillan, 384 pages, hardback, £17.99

This is a re-imagined Moby Dick with trains and moles. Lots of trains — and gigantic moles with flashing teeth and sharp claws.

Sham ap Soorap, the novel’s teenage narrator and protagonist, is apprenticed to the doctor on the mole-hunter’s train, the Medes, a train which roams the wide world of the Railsea — the network of railways covering the surface of this world.

The Medes hunts the giant moles which burrow under the earth and the tracks. Sham, on his first hunt, finds himself 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. With dead seas, poisoned earth and the scrap from previous civilisations scattered around the Railsea, expect to find messages about the ruination of the environment — and about the madness of capitalism and a challenge to the politics of austerity.

But in typical Miéville style, these are interwoven into story-telling that is exhilarating and fresh.

Although oriented towards young adults, this is a great summer read for teenagers and adults alike. The book is a chance to slip away into a world of make-believe that has just enough reality to keep it truly interesting.

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