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Deborah, Esher Church of England High School


This is a science fiction book set in a future where humans have left Earth and settled on many worlds. Zen Starling is a petty thief from Cleave, stealing to support his family consisting of his mum and sister. Cleave is part of the Great Network which is a place of drones and androids, Hive monks and station angels. Different worlds on planets, light years away from each other, are connected by gateways where trains cross the galaxies in seconds. Railheads love the trains and the many journeys they make possible.
A female Motorik, or android, called Nova is used to lead Zen to a character called Raven. He wants Zen to steal something for him from the Noon family train. The network is ruled by the Noons. It transpires that Zen has Noon DNA and so is selected by Raven to gain access to the Noon train and the trust of the Noon family because of his resemblance to them.
Zen jumps at the chance to travel the Great Network and the story follows him on his assignment as he meets the various characters.
It took a while for the book to grab my interest but this was probably due to the fact that I was listening to it on audio in my car and then reading the odd chapter from the hardback! The book did have quite an extensive glossary which helped explain some of the characters, places and words in the book. I found myself having to refer to it a few times to get a better understanding of some of the concepts that I simply wasn’t getting from the text. Having said that, there was some lovely descriptive writing that I really liked…..
‘…...a siren voice was calling, lonely as the song of whales.’
There was a particular chapter that I liked where a ‘Guardian’ of the Network describes the ‘data-silt on the data-floor or the data-sea’ referring to emails that the Guardian collected from ‘old Earth’.
There is a Railhead resources website too where there are some great videos and further descriptions by Philip Reeve himself!
I did really enjoy the latter part of the book – probably because it all started to make a bit more sense!! It also left it open for another book, (which I have discovered there is – Black Light Express). It would definitely appeal to children aged 11 years plus who are particularly interested in the world of computers, programming and futuristic gadgets!

Posted on: 16th May 2017 at 01:42 pm

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