"On board the moletrain Medes, Sham Yes ap Soorap watches in awe as he witnesses his first moldywarpe hunt: the giant mole bursting from the earth, the harpoonists targeting their prey, the battle resulting in one’s death and the other’s glory. But no matter how spectacular it is, Sham can't shake the sense that there is more to life than traveling the endless rails of the railsea–even if his captain can think only of the hunt for the ivory-coloured mole she’s been chasing since it took her arm all those years ago. When they come across a wrecked train, at first it's a welcome distraction. But what Sham finds in the derelict—a series of pictures hinting at something, somewhere, that should be impossible—leads to considerably more than he'd bargained for. Soon he's hunted on all sides, by pirates, trainsfolk, monsters and salvage-scrabblers. And it might not be just Sham's life that's about to change. It could be the whole of the railsea."
Taking its cues from Moby Dick, Railsea is amazing. I liked Moby Dick (I skimmed over the pages of whale killing tools details) but I never found that to be a problem or block for enjoying Railsea. Miéville as usual has changed his style (only ampersands, there's no "and" in this book) to create a brand new world that has a little bit of similarity to the Iron Council mainly because it's also set on a train. Railsea is a completely different train world though. The ground, the railsea, becomes more dangerous than the ocean. It's hinted that this is a natural disaster, that this is a book set in the future after Earth has been through the heavy metal age and plastizoid and aliens have ruined the upper atmosphere (so maybe you can classify this as a dystopia). The railsea is inhabited by moldywarps and other very dangerous creatures that seek to eat humans the second they touch the railsea at times. The only way to travel safely is on the network of rails. The trains that travel these rails are specially built for their functions (there're archaeologists in this book!) and on the mole hunters, the captains are Ahabs who make their search into symbols. They embue their obsessions with language and they become stories, they are not searching for their particular quarry, they are searching for meaning. It's a great homage to Moby Dick. But the book goes further because Sham Yes ap Soorap stops being a mole hunter and ends up on a very special type of train and the book splits into various narratives. The captain's search for meaning and Sham's search for the beginning, the explanation of the beginning of the rails.
Miéville has created mythologies, religions, political struggles, and even has inserted a sly criticism of current society. It's a great full bodied novel that is easier to get into than some of his others. Listen, I love it. I love the diversity of family situations, strong female characters, and even gender ambiguity. I'm so glad to have read it and that Miéville is clearly capable of continuing his strengths (this is his most recent).