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William, Sir John's Shadowers

Railhead

When I read, I expect of two things. Either being shown a new perspective of our own world or being taken to a richly detailed new one. The last book I read, the fantastic Sputnik's guide to life on Earth brilliantly did the former. Meanwhile, Railhead by Philip Reeve succeeds in the latter.

Railhead is set in the distant future. It doesn't specify when, though I think it's the early 3000's. It follows the story of Zen Starling, a small-time street thief from the planet Cleave. He gets hired by a mysterious man by the name of Raven, who instructs him to steal an equally mysterious artifact called the Pyxis (don't know if its pronounced Pi-zis or Pix-is) from the museum on the train of the Noon family, who rule the Great Network.

The world of the Network itself is masterfully realized. it's a science fiction setting so original and so rich in detail that it feels like it could actually exist. The idea of traveling between planets by train is incredibly creative, and as ridiculous as it may seem, the concept of these trains being alive feels like it improves it, deepening the fantastic setting. The book even contains a glossary full of the definition of the terminology used, and I would constantly refer to it while reading.

The story itself is as interesting as the world, making plenty of twists and turns as it progresses (when the Pyxis is stolen, it's only halfway through!). All the characters are interesting and fleshed out too, my favorites are probably the Motorik Nova, and also another character named Flex. I like these characters for the same reason though I can't tell you why without giving part of the story away!

Overall, Railhead is brilliant, both as a standalone story and a setup to a wider universe to continuously expand on. I recommend this to ages 13 up, but probably not before that due to the complex story that younger readers would struggle to understand.

Posted on: 25th April 2017 at 01:33 pm

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