Railhead - Philip Reeve

Once upon a time in the 80’s I saw an anime movie on TV called Galaxy Express 999: Can You Love Like a Mother? It was episodes 51-52 of a 100+ episode series which I’d never seen. It was devoid of context and badly dubbed, but there was a boy on a train traveling through space and I was entranced. I never went looking for the whole series and had mostly forgotten about it until I started seeing reviews for Railhead pop up a couple of years ago. Sentient trains traveling through space? A young street thief caught in a galactic conflict beyond his comprehension? Intrigue and action and complex morality? Yes! cried my inner 80’s child. Sign. Me. Up.


Boy, am I glad I listened to her!


Railhead is absolutely full of interesting, flawed characters and has an intriguing, twisty plot, but it’s the freaking brilliant world building that really shines.


There were things that lived in the deep data: unregistered phishing nets, spam-sharks that would hack your mind and fill your dreams with adverts, half-mad military programmes left over from long-ago wars.


I can’t even articulate how much I love the future universe Reeve created, so I’m not going to try. The book does stand alone, but I’m super bummed there’s no sequel. [Edit: THERE ARE SEQUELS! I AM FULL OF JOY!] I want to ride the rails, making friends with the trains and listening to them sing while alien landscapes flash by.


I want to be a railhead.