China Miéville’s “Railsea”: Giant Moles, Strange Trains, and Blood Rabbits

RailseaFresh off the linguistic pyrotechnics and mind-bending concepts in his critically acclaimed Embassytown, China Miéville returns with a novel for readers of all ages, “a gripping and brilliantly imagined take on Herman Melville's Moby-Dick” that I’m personally finding an absorbing, exciting, and also very fun read. Even though there’s much that’s serious about Railsea, it’s been written with a kind of exuberance that comes through on the page.

What’s it about? Giant moles and blood rabbits! Yes, I said it: blood rabbits, although perhaps they’re better described as an interesting detail. But mostly it’s about some very fascinating characters on an epic journey. For once the press release does a nice job of giving a good sense of the novel: “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….When they come across a wrecked train, Sham a series of pictures hinting at something, somewhere, that should be impossible...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.”

In asking Miéville about the novel, I knew I should start out with a standard question, but alas my delight at discovering that Miéville had deployed not just giant moles but giant naked mole rats in Railsea overrode any more mundane concerns...

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