by China Mieville
Ballantine, 2012. 424 pgs. Science Fiction/Young Adult
China Mieville's prose is beyond virtuoso, inhabiting a landscape of his own making, exhibiting a degree of difficulty beyond telling. Railsea is no exception. Riffing on Melville's Moby-Dick, Mieville (swap an "i" for an "l" and the anagram is exact), sends his characters into the perilous Railsea with tracks that twist and wind like the ampersands that litter his text. Sham ap Soorap, a young man apprenticed as a doctor's assistant on the moletrain Medes wants to be a salvor, but instead rides with his captain in search of Mocker-Jack, a great tooth-colored moldywarpe (mole) who took the captain's left arm at the elbow. But there are more stories to tell: The Shroakes children chase the dream of their dead parents; the pirates and the Minihiki warriors chase anyone who might lead them to treasure; the moles, earwigs, gigantic worms, and blood rabbits of the subterranean world hunt anything of a meatish persuasion. And they all roil up together at the end of the known world. Unlike Melville's Ahab, Mieville's Sham and company pierce the veil. No spoilers here, but what he finds is both disheartening and heartening, the end of one quest, and the beginning of another.