In what I’m hoping is the first in a new series (a sequel called Black Light Express is rumored), Philip Reeve brings to life nearly a thousand worlds which can be traveled to instantaneously by means of sentient locomotives.
People like Zen Starling who love the transitions between worlds are called Railheads. They travel world to world for sometimes practical reasons, such as Zen and his thievery, sometimes just to see the sights as the worlds blink in and out along the railway. Long ago mysterious beings called Guardians opened The Great Network to beings all along its routes. The trains themselves have personalities and sometimes vague loyalties to those who arrange commerce along the rail lines.
Zen Starling is a simple thief, stealing a piece of jewelry from the crowded market stalls of Ambersai Station. He normally wouldn’t be so bold but the opportunity was there, and it was done. Soon he’s chased by drones and a red haired girl who follow him along the rail lines all the way home to the bitter, crumbling town of Cleave.
Thus begins an adventure he wouldn’t have guessed possible. He’s offered the ultimate opportunity to steal something that may not even have value. Chased by a relentless detective, finding friendship with creatures not recognized as being alive, and solving the mysteries of his own past as he races through the universe make this a spectacular tale of the sort you wish wouldn’t end.
A Guardian Interview with Philip Reeve on the writing of Railhead
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