the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘trains

I recently reread China Mieville’s Iron Council, which came out in 2004 and was the third of his loosely related Bas-Lag books.  If you’re not familiar with this new-weird sci-fantasy series, you can read the three books – Perdido Street Station (2000),  The Scar (2002), and Iron Council (2004), in any order. These books take place in the same world, but follow different characters often in different parts of the world. Embassytown (2011) is most certainly not a Bas-Lag book, but in my mind it has the same feel.


Anyway, after finished Iron Council, of course I had to reread The Scar!  Mieville’s The Scar has long been one of my all time favorite science fiction (fantasy? other? i have no idea what this book is, except that I love it!) books, so it has been a joy to be reading this book over the last week or so.


With Iron Council so fresh in my mind, I can’t help but compare the two.  I’m also coming to these books with far more life experience and understanding of the  short term and long term consequences of governmental and societal decisions.  Upon reread they have completely different books. Better books with far more layers than I expected.    It’s been fun thinking about what Iron Council and The Scar have in common, but worrisome at the same time.  If they have this much in common, does that mean Mieville was telling the same story twice?


If you’ve not read much Mieville or any Bas-Lag books, this blog post will made no sense to you. #SorryNotSorry.


here’s what I mean:

Both books deal with the hubris of bending nature to our will in the name of progress – Iron Council had an unspoken thing about how easy it is to destroy nature and the homes of the people who already live there, all in the name of building a railroad. Even when the railroad is independent, there are descriptions of how the ground must be torn up and scarred for them to pass over it.  In The Scar, no spoilers, but the rulers of Armada have the hubris to assume all and any sea creatures can be exploited.

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Railsea, by China Mieville

published May 2012

where I got it: purchased new










this is the story of a bloodstained boy.

A delightfully strange retelling of Moby Dick, Railsea has a number of literary nods on order – the asides that don’t have anything to do with our main characters but instead speak of the moler industry at large, the narrator breaking the fourth wall and teasing the reader, even a nice reference to Scylla and Carybdis.

Although Railsea is technically YA (no swearing, no sex, and no overt violence), Mieville never talks down to the reader. I suspect some fourteen year olds will put this book down after 50 pages, frustrated with coming across words they don’t know, whilst other fourteen year olds will simply find a dictionary or ask their parents what a certain word means. Sometimes the joy of reading is about the journey of the words, not the book you are reading.

We first meet our main character Sham ap Soorap when his moler train captures a giant moldywarpe and is chopping it up. The worst medical student ever, Sham is more generic helper on the train that useful physician’s assistant.  Young and unsure of where his life will take him, Sham seems to be going through the motions, hoping something will stand out as a sign of where his destiny lies.  The train travels its usual haunts, the captain constantly seeking information on the giant bone colored moldywarpe that took her arm.

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saw some scenery not far from where I live, and thought “hey, this looks like what I’m reading”, only less imaginative, of course.

can you guess what I’m reading?

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.