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. Zen Starling is a nobody. A petty thief from the filthy streets of Thunder City who aimlessly rides the rails of the Network. So when the mysterious stranger Raven offers Zen a chance to escape the squalor of the city and live the rest of his days in luxury, Zen can’t believe his luck. All he has to do is steal one small box from the Emperor’s train with the help of Nova, an android girl. But the Great Network is a hazardous mess of twists and turns, and that little box just might bring everything in this galaxy — and the next — to the end of the line. The highly anticipated novel from Carnegie-medal-winning author Philip Reeve, Railhead is a fast, immersive, and heart-pounding ride perfect for any sci-fi fan. Step aboard — the universe is waiting.
I was pleasantly surprised by how much of a solid and captivating book this was.
I was expecting to enjoy this, but I was expecting to have to work to remember the terminology and to understand all of the science fiction elements. However, it was surprisingly easy to pick up on the concepts of the world Reeve had created. I appreciated that there weren't endless descriptions of the world; instead, we were simply placed in it and everything came together cohesively.
There were some intriguing ideas given about humanity without feeling too forced. With a lot of emphasis on artificial intelligence, it became natural to be contemplating humanity and its role in the world. With the Guardians, godlike figures, being sentient creatures that one could send "data-prayers" too, even the idea of major religious figures was brought into contemplation.
There were comedic moments too that lightened the mood. The book was mainly action based, with the characters constantly on the move and constantly in the throes of some danger or some crisis, so having things like Zen thinking a bowl for washing his fingers was soup broke the tension beautifully.
My one major issue with this book was with the lack of personal repercussion for a particular action taken. I don't think it was entirely necessary, and I think that given the characters' thoughts leading up to it, what followed didn't make sense. (Avoiding spoilers makes me way too ambiguous!)
The ending left potential for a sequel open, and I'd definitely read a sequel. But this was such a good stand alone book that I almost wouldn't want to know what happens next so that I can keep imagining it.
This was a really fun read, and I totally recommend it to anyone who likes scifi casually but is scared of the investment most scifi books require. And to anyone who loves a good, fast-moving plot!
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.