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Dominic, Our Lady's Abingdon (OLA)

Railhead

Railhead captivated me from the start. My favourite element of the novel, carried through the book, was the variety of hidden meanings, which helped me to contemplate the moral views on several things. The book is set in the future, and is sci-fi, but it isn't overpowering and also deep ethical meanings.

Centuries ago, humans created artificial intelligence in form of 'the Guardians' whose job was to protect human beings. These Guardians say they created the K-gates, gates which can lead to the other side of the universe, and to different planets. Zen Starling, a minor thief, lives on Cleave, a planet in the 'Network', the group of planets linked by K-gates. Each planet is a station, through which trains arrive. I was attracted to the idea of many planets, linked by trains, and was amused by the way that Zen Starling talks freely about the Network, and how commuters just travel every day to other planets.

One day, Zen Starling is stealing from the marketplace in Ambersai, a market planet. He is seen stealing by the goldsmith and tries to get back to the train. This is when a girl in red coat comes up to him and attempts to get him to follow her. He doesn't and when she comes to his house in Cleave, he realises she is a Motorik; essentially a robot. (Motorik are less politely called 'wire dollies' or 'a putala' - which translates as 'mannequin.)

She is called Nova, and takes him to her master, Raven. Raven is a mysterious man who we don't know much about. But he has a job for Zen. Raven has noticed Zen's skills as being a thief, and wants him to steal something from a train. But this train is not just any train. It is the Noon's family train - or rather, the family of the Emperor. He has to steal the Pyxis, a seeming insignificant item - but why?

Railhead has an exciting plot, with many twists and turns. It has a few hidden meanings, one of the strongest throughout the book being the one of humanity, and robots. The Motorik are robots, but are programmed to have their own mind, so they act as a human being and think like a human. This throws up moral dilemmas:
If a Motorik wants to be treated like a human, should you treat them like a human?

If a Motorik can understand you, has a computer instead of tissue for a brain, should they be treated human?

Another hidden meaning is the one of the good, and the bad side. Which is which? At first, Raven seems good. Then bad. Then good. Then bad. Then good. Which is he? Can he, a complicated human, be trusted?

Finally, there is the hidden meaning of ways of humanity. Humans are programmed to shy away from change, as they do in the novel, as do the Guardians. Change is drastic, and Raven wants it. Against humanity's natural way of life, that is difficult to do.

Overall, I really enjoyed Railhead, and loved the plot twists. It had a wonderfully crafted mix of sadness, happiness, humour and sincerity. I would recommend it to anyone 13 and over and rate is 4.8/5 stars (look up words you don't know in the Glossary!).

Posted on: 30th March 2017 at 09:00 pm

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