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Niamh, Chobham Academy Book Group


Railhead by Phillip Reeve
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
To be honest, this book was quite disappointing. It had been recommended to me for its plot and the fact that it is a fast paced read that I would get through in no time. To me, it was the complete opposite.
The characters are likeable and the main characters are written well .You could tell that the main character, who is a ‘petty thief’ named Zen, and his confidant, Nova, who accompanies him on his mission as an incognito and is his sister’s friend have been thought out and a lot of brainpower has gone into them. They are interesting and are explained in depth. The others had been touched up vaguely and said no more of for a while until they cropped up later on. I couldn’t relate to them on a personal level because these characters are from another universe and also, their characteristics are nothing like mine.
The plotline is about a railhead named Zen Starling, who is recruited by a fugitive called Raven, to be an incognito on board a train to be a thief. A course of events take place and Zen somehow finds himself encountering insect mutants called hive monks and humans. Alongside androids called Motoriks. Zen meets one that is female and who is insistent upon the fact she is human. The story follows the cliché boy meets girl scenario, so, they fall in love. Most probably their love for one another will continue in the next book, which was also one of the reasons I had an intention to read this. The plot sounds elaborate but really, I could not follow and get into it. One good thing about it, is that the story is not predictable. There are some twists and turns.
A futuristic world in which humans have left the earth is where this story takes place. Inter-world travel is just as easy as getting the bus for us. This is achieved by travelling through a series of networks and pathways in which particular trains travel through. I think that in any book the setting matching the storyline is an important feature, and this book did just that. It had elaborate details which I wouldn’t think of if I had to write a book.
Science fiction is DEFINITELY what I would band this book as for a genre. From the first page you can tell that the writer envisaged the genre as sci-fi. That this book is gearing up to be a sci-fi read. And this positively fits in with the genre. No, I wouldn’t say that this is unique to its genre. In terms of setting, it is fairly generic (space, with futuristic ideas), but the ideas behind it and other elements of the read are highly imaginative.
The quality of writing is good, and is worthy of being shortlisted for the Carnegie award. It is not brilliant thought it would be, but still pleasant for perhaps younger readers, or somebody who is only just beginning to read science fiction.
Even though I don’t think that age banding books is right (as people should be able to read whatever they would like to unless it is blatantly obvious the read is not for them), It bored me, so I’d say that this book is aimed at the older end of mainstream fiction. And it was suitable for them, for the pace of this book and the fact that the children who read it would be engaged and able to get their minds around it easily.
So, I liked this book in some areas more than others, such as the elaborate details Reeve has added and the setting. However, I didn’t enjoy the plotline, which is one of the main elements to the enjoyment of a book. I had intentions of reading Philip Reeve’s ‘Mortal engines’ quartet, and I think I might, to give his plotlines another chance! The older end of mainstream fiction would enjoy this, but I wouldn’t recommend it over other books similar to this. I wouldn’t read it again out of choice.

Posted on: 26th May 2017 at 11:51 am

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