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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

"Railhead: Railhead Book 1" by Philip Reeve (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)

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OVERVIEW: The Great Network is an ancient web of routes and gates, where sentient trains can take you anywhere in the galaxy in the blink of an eye.

But the Network is also a hazardous mess of twists and turns, and nothing is as it seems. So when petty thief and railhead Zen Starling is hired by the mysterious Raven, the job appears simple enough. Steal one small box from the Emperor’s train, live the rest of his days in luxury. Secrets and danger lie in wait on the rails, and that little box might just bring everything in this galaxy—and the next—to the end of the line.

FORMAT: Railhead is the first book in a new YA series. It is a futuristic sci-fi cyberpunk adventure novel that is filled with action, mystery, and adventure. It all takes place in a detailed new inter-galactic world that has bug creatures, droids, royal families, and 'Guardians' which are god-like creatures. Railhead stands at 356 pages.

Railhead was released in the US on April 1, 2016. It was published by Switch Press. It was released in the UK on October 1, 2015 by Oxford University Press.

ANALYSIS: It is difficult to find a unique book, especially when you read a lot. Over time, you become used to the norm and start noticing that a lot of the books just feel the same. Sure, they have different characters and a "unique" world, but there isn't really anything overly unique or creative about any of the elements. That is why a book like Railhead by Philip Reeve is so refreshing.

Philip Reeve has a true talent when it comes to writing. He has this amazing ability to take familiar elements that are at the heart of every novel (things such as romance, quests, discovering yourself, growing up, coming of age story, etc.) and giving them unique, creative twist. Railhead is just one of many examples of Philip Reeve's work and it doesn't disappoint.

The first thing that stands out about Railhead is the unique and very detailed world the novel takes place in. It is a futuristic world where traveling between planets and galaxies has become a reality
thanks to a complex travel system known as The Great Network. The Great Network has different gates and routes that take travelers between worlds on a system of trains. Think of it as an inter-galactic railway system, because that is exactly what it is.

Over the course of the book, The Great Network along with all the worlds within the galaxy starts to develop and take shape. Readers learn more about the setup of the network, how the network came about, and how the world and galaxy start to rely upon it for travel. By the end of the book, you have a true appreciation for just how unique and detailed the world building is within Railhead.

The pacing of Railhead is amazing. Considering the amount of detail that goes into the world building, you would think that the book would be bogged down with lengthy descriptions, but it isn't. The book moves at a fast pace and the details of the world, who created it, how things are made are slowly revealed over time.

While I love fast paced books, there is a slight drawback. It does take some time to get used to the world because it is a learn-as-you-read type setup. Readers who enjoy just sitting down and knowing everything about the world and the characters will find it difficult to get into the book, as it literally is like learning everything all over again and that takes time.

Character development is something that I love in books. I love feeling close to the characters and like they are truly alive. I have to say if anything is rated the weakest it would be character development. It isn't because the characters don't develop throughout the story or they seem flat, it is because it did take some time to get to know the characters.

I believe because so much of the book is focused on creating this amazing, cyber-punk sci-fi world, the characters take a back seat until about the halfway point of the book. By the end of the book, I became more invested in the characters and I honestly cannot wait for book 2. Unfortunately, the inability to really relate to characters until the halfway point or ending might be a turn-off for readers who want instant connections.

In addition to the amazing world that is created, Philip Reeve accomplishes the task of creating a diverse book that hits on a lot of hot topic issues. Topics such as what makes someone human, machines vs. humans in the workforce, mental health issues, same sex marriages/relationships, gender identity, wealth distribution, economic growth, what makes someone 'bad', and other issues are brought up in the book without forcing it down your throat. It is done in a subtle way that is appropriate. Not everything has to be in your face and preachy.

I have to say I absolutely love Railhead. It instantly pulled me into the story and the world, and I didn't really want to leave it. It was refreshing to see an author take a chance on something that could have turned out disastrous if not done properly. Luckily, it wasn't and it turned out to be an amazing, magical story.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is tired of the same old, same old and who wants to experience something new, exciting and fun.


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