This is a fantastic conclusion to the Railhead trilogy. It was exciting to be back in Reeve’s world of sentient singing trains, bioengineered buildings and droids which blur the boundary between human and machine. I think the worldbuilding is my favourite element of the trilogy, as it’s vivid and credible. The characters are well crafted too and it’s evident that the author has put a lot of thought and love into his writing. The far future is not a dystopia. There are problems, the same as in our times (wars, media frenzy, human rights abuses) but not so much that it’s depressing to read about. I find that the tone is optimistic.
Without overly spoiling the first two books (Railhead and Black Light Express) in case you intend to read them, I’ll just say that in this one, our protagonist Zen Starling finds himself leaving his newly comfortable life and heading for trouble. There’s a war brewing between the rival dynasties, the Noons and the Prells. New gates are opening all over the known universe, allowing the interstellar trains to potentially go anywhere. And the Guardians are starting to lose control.
It took me a little while to remember what had happened in the previous books (as it’s two years since I read the second one) but after that, I was right back into the story. Towards the end, I wasn’t totally sure what was going on, as I think there was some information overload and I was unable to process it all. Maybe that’s just me. I did like this book a lot, although not as much as the previous ones. The ending seemed conclusive, so I doubt there is room for another sequel. I prefer these to the Mortal Engines series.
First published in 2018 by Oxford University Press.