If you've ever gotten me into a book discussion than you've most likely heard me praise China Miéville. In my mind, Miéville is the most fascinating author writing today. His works are difficult. Not in terms of language, although he does love to make up words quite a bit, but in terms of the worlds he creates. This is probably a poor analogy, but reading Miéville is painful in much the same way as a new exercise will hit muscles you don't use often. His stories involve concepts that your brain simply wants to reject outright, and that's what I love about him. To be clear, his books are not always great, and sometimes you can tell he is trying to be weird just for weird's sake. But when it works - his writing is absolutely incredible.
Railsea is loosely based on Moby Dick, a book I'm embarrassed to say I haven't read yet. The world of Railsea is one of large tracts of earth covered by a seemingly infinite collection of rails. Instead of oceans, there is simply the loose earth of Railsea and the harder earth of human civilization. The Railsea is a dangerous place. Large burrowing creatures live within the earth. I hate to make the comparison, but think Tremors. Walking across this earth is - essentially - a death sentence. People use the rails with trains of various sorts. Merchant trains, Navy trains, even pirate trains.
The main character, Sham, is on a "Moler" train - essentially this book's version of a whaling ship. Instead of a whale, they hunt giant, and deadly, naked mole rats. The description of the hunts, life on the trains, and the world of Railsea in general is fascinating.
The ending was a bit... off. While the book was weird, the ending was a bit... too weird. Miéville is not shy in hiding his political agenda, and I appreciate that, but the ending was a bit too blunt for my tastes. To be clear, it didn't ruin the book for me at all. I still loved it.
For folks curious - I'm now reading Ready Player One. (50 or so pages in and it's great!)