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 Cover of the first U.S. hardcover edition of Railsea
Cover of the first U.S. hardcover edition of Railsea
Author China Miéville
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Young-adult fiction, weird fiction
Publisher Del Rey Books
Publication date
15 May 2012
Pages 448
ISBN 978-0345524522

Railsea is a young-adult novel written and illustrated by English writer China Miéville, and published in May 2012. Miéville described the novel as "weird fiction",[1] and io9 labeled its mix of fantasy and steampunk elements as "salvagepunk".[2]


Railsea is set on a dystopic, dying world whose oceans, the "railsea", are deserts colonized by ravenous speed-tunneling giant naked mole rats, and crossed by endless railroad tracks of unclear origin. Its plot is an "affectionate parody" of Herman Melville's classic novel Moby-Dick,[2] but also draws on Robert Louis Stevenson's adventure novels Treasure Island and Kidnapped.[3] The novel follows the adventures of three young orphans, Sham and the Shroake siblings, who join train-captain Abacat Naphi's hunt for her nemesis Mocker-Jack, a giant burrowing "moldywarpe" mole. They eventually set out on a journey to the end of the railsea, and the end of the world.


Railsea was generally well received by critics. USA Today's reviewer appreciated Miéville's mix of "emotional drama, Godzilla-esque monster carnage" and high adventure that would satisfy teenagers as well as Miéville's adult fans.[4] Stephen Burt remarked on Miéville's inventive language and world-building, and noted that the author's far-left politics are reflected in the slowly emerging history of Railsea's derelict world, which amounts to a "funny, far-reaching indictment of modern capitalism".[3]

Several reviewers highlighted the metafictional nature of the novel. Writing for io9, Chris Hsiang noted that it abounds with "impish literary games", and praised its avoidance of either "dystopian romance tropes" or political sermonizing in favor of a challenging, weird but still approachable language and structure.[2] Others were more critical of Railsea's metafictional approach. Jason Heller of the A.V. Club wrote that while Miéville's swift and absorbing (if dense) prose and lean plot yielded a "brainy and thrilling" result, it would have been improved "if only he’d stopped less to comment on his own cleverness along the way".[5]


  1. ^ Heller, Billy (12 May 2012). "Required reading". New York Post. Retrieved 17 May 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c Hsiang, Chris (10 May 2012). "Ride China Miéville’s Crazy Train in Railsea". io9. Retrieved 17 May 2012. 
  3. ^ a b Burt, Stephen (10 May 2012). "China Mieville's 'Railsea': 'Moby-Dick' Remixed". NPR. Retrieved 17 May 2012. 
  4. ^ Truitt, Brian (16 May 2012). "China Mieville works ‘Moby-Dick’ on the railroad". USA Today. Retrieved 17 May 2012. 
  5. ^ Heller, Jason (14 May 2012). "Railsea". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 17 May 2012. 

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