“This is the story of a bloodstained boy…”
– Railsea by China Miéville
“Old dolls, salvaged dolls. No matter how cleaned they had been, the dust in which they had lain for so many lifetimes had permanently coloured them: whatever tone their skin had been supposed to be, it looked ensepiaed, as if through dirty glass. Mostly they were shaped like people, mostly like women or girls, though of deeply questionable physical proportions, with thickety knotted & scrambled hair where it remained at all. A few were grotesques, monsters. Many were limbless…”
I loved the wit and the depth of this novel – but I am curious how it goes over with “readers of all ages.” Is it appropriate for middle grade readers and young adults? Certainly – but it’s most definitely not “typical” young adult reading fare. And by that I mean there are no paranormal fantasy elements (vampires, werewolves, etc.), there is no romance or romantic tension between characters, and oft-trod young adult themes (fitting in, body image, peer pressure, etc.) are absent. But those younger readers who do pick up and read Railsea will experience a truly wondrous novel that explores perhaps the most significant young adult (and adult, for that matter) theme of all – figuring out what you want to accomplish in life and then finding a way to do it.
All I can say is this: read Railsea – it will be one of the best novels you read this year. And you will never look at white whales or peg-legged ship captains the same way again (and that is a good thing)…
Paul Goat Allen has been a full-time book reviewer specializing in genre fiction for the last two decades and has written thousands of reviews for companies like Publishers Weekly, The Chicago Tribune, Kirkus Reviews, and BarnesandNoble.com. He is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.
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