Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Railsea by China Mieville

I am comfortable admitting that I haven't read Moby Dick (there are too many great books out there to be embarrassed over missing a few). And I'm glad I didn't know Railsea is something of a re-do of Moby Dick before I started because I probably wouldn't have picked it up. I would have missed a great book.
This story takes place far into the future when the oceans are gone and the seabeds are lined with railroad tracks. Hunters make their livelihoods by riding trains in search of giant moles that live below the surface of the soil. Yes, there is a mammoth white mole that eludes the captain of the train our hero, Sham ap Soorap, rides, but this is Sham's story, not the captain's. Sham embarks on adventure to solve some of the greatest mysteries of the railsea - where do the tracks end? who made them? what are the great machines (called angels) that tend to them? and what does the obsessive pursuit of one white mole do to a person's soul?
I love Mieville's writing and the strange (sometimes very, very strange) worlds that he creates. I highly recommend this book (appropriate for roughly 13 and up due to complicated language and some violence). At the end of reading this I had two requests to make of the media universe: please, China, write a sequel and please, please Miyazaki make this into a movie.

Trapeze by Simon Mawer

I’m a sucker for atmospheric suspense novels set during World War II. I’m also a sucker for girl spies and great writing. Trapeze has all three of these things so, of course, I loved it.
Marian Sutro is just out of school and doing her part for the War Effort. She is offered a new job with the vaguely named Special Operations Executive. She’s a native French speaker and capable student. Sooner than she expects it becomes clear that the distant idea that she might go to occupied France is actually a very near reality. She’ll test her new skills, her relationships, and her mental strength behind enemy lines.
This is more a novel about one woman than a novel about World War II or spies or even the French Resistance. It’s the strength of Marian as a fascinating young woman, combined with that great writing, which makes this one of my favorite books so far this year. If you loved Restless by William Boyd or any of the Alan Furst novels, then you really should consider Trapeze.