Ok, so I'm still unsure if I can write the review this book deserves, and a lot of it has already been said anyway. It's certainly far easier to write about books I didn't like, or ones I loved but could use nostalgia as a tool to write the review. Railsea was released this year, and I read it recently, so no nostalgia there. The world it is set in is wildly unlike my own, so again, no nostalgia.
I guess all I'm left with is that it is simply a a damn good book. I've heard that it isn't even his best! I can't wait to delve into those other worlds Miéville has created.
I'll be honest - I struggled at the start. There are dense paragraphs, and strange, poetical phrasings that, coupled with the use of the ampersand make for a challenging read - until you get into the rhythm of the story, much like adapting to walking on a boat or train. At first you can't manage any more than short distances as you stumble around clumsily, and then! Your legs adapt and you can walk, run, as if you were on solid ground. This may be a clichéd idea, but is exactly how I felt getting into the story. It reeled me in slow but sure and then smacked me over the head with an incredible ending.
The basic themes in Railsea may appear simple - slowly revealing istelf to have an inner a commentary on corporations, capitalism and enviromentalism - but to reduce the book down to just those themes would be a crime against it.
The prose is unusual and delicious, a refreshing change from the rather bland fodder that seems to fill so many YA books these days. In fact, this highly unusual book rises so far above the clichés of that genre that I would hesitate to even call it as such. There is no romance, no love triangles, no high-school crushes or (as in the recent flood of books) dystopian rule that must be overcome by the young, bland (attractive) protagonist. The only part that that makes it fit this limiting label "YA" is the age of the characters - this is a book for anyone who loves to read.
It isn't perfect, hence the missing half a star. But it's close, and sometimes that's almost better.