Today, we are happy to hosting the W stop in this alphabet blog tour to celebrate the new book by Philip Reeve, Railhead! When this book came into my life, I was immediately intrigued. A space opera about a thief and a super cool intergalactic rail system? Mind blown. So excited by this book!
W is for Workers
By Philip Reeve
Railhead is set in a hi-tech future, where vehicles drive themselves, robots are widespread, and buildings have minds of their own. It’s strange to think of anyone still working at manual jobs in a society where technology can do so much, but they do. The godlike Guardians who watch over this society aim to keep it stable, and perhaps they think it will lead to instability if there aren’t jobs for people – or maybe they believe that human beings have a need to work.* The laws they laid down long ago reserve many jobs for human beings, and on industrial worlds like Cleave, where my hero Zen lives, the factories and refineries are mostly staffed by human labour. (Though lately the factory owners have found a loophole in the rules and started classifying Motorik android labourers as human, sparking violent anti-Moto riots by workers who fear for their futures.)
One of those workers (and one of those rioters) Is Zen’s sister Myka, who drives a cumbersome lifter-loader called an Iron Penguin at a facility deep in the canyon city. Since much of Railhead takes place among people with unimaginable wealth and power I felt it was important that Zen and his family come from the very bottom of their society, and Myka is the breadwinner who keeps them (just about) afloat down there. They could probably get help if they knew who to ask – this isn’t some neo-liberal nightmare future that I’m writing about, their are safety nets – but Zen and Myka’s mother is mentally ill, prone to paranoid delusions; she’s turned down help whenever it was offered, and run from it till she landed up in Cleave. And Myka is too angry to ask anyone for help, or maybe she’s just given up. Holding the family together has left her cynical; she even flirts with the shadowy Human Unity League, a bunch of flaky would-be rebels who dream of overthrowing the Empire and perhaps the Guardians themselves.
But I like Myka. She’s one of the good people of the book, honest and exasperated. She’d never stoop to petty theft, the way her brother does. When the chips are down, she’ll scowl and grumble and complain at how unfair it was – but then she’ll do the right thing.
*The real reason, of course, is that I wanted my hero to have a grim life which he could dream of escaping. A future where everyone has all they need and lives a life of leisure might make a nice daydream, but I couldn’t write a whole book about it.
RAILHEAD is the long-awaited new novel by Carnegie and Guardian Book Award winner Philip Reeve. It’s a book that he has been thinking about for ten years and that is hotly anticipated by fans, reviewers and the book-trade. It is a gripping story written for both teens and adults alike, with the epic sweep and emotional pull of Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights. The film rights to RAILHEAD have been sold to Warner Brothers.
RAILHEAD is the story of Zen Starling, a petty thief and self-confessed ‘railhead’ who loves to ride the rails to nowhere. It is set in a far-flung galaxy connected by thousands of gates, linked by indestructible rails – The Great Network, where hundreds of sentient trains criss-cross the universe in seconds. Zen Starling is chosen by the mysterious and powerful Raven to steal something that has the power to bring everything in this galaxy and the next to an end.
About Philip Reeve
Philip is best known for his multi award-winning Mortal Engines quartet, which won the Nestlé Children’s Book Prize, the Blue Peter Book Award, and the Guardian Children’s Book Award. He has also won the prestigious CILIP Carnegie Medal with Here Lies Arthur.
Philip studied an art Foundation Course at Brighton, followed by a diploma at Cambridgeshire College of Arts and Technology. Three years as an art student having rendered him almost unemployable, he returned to Brighton where he worked in an independent bookshop while pursuing non-paying sidelines as writer/producer/director of low budget film and comedy projects. Forced by lack of funds to track down some cartooning work, Philip became a freelance illustrator where he remained for several years, before writing novels. Philip moved to Dartmoor in1998, where he now lives with his wife Sarah and his son Sam. Dartmoor with its huge expansive skies and changing landscape has been an inspiration for his work. Philip travels up and down the country and internationally, holding events and attending festivals. Many of these events are with his co-author Sarah McIntyre for the Reeve & McIntyre Production books including Oliver and the Seawigs, Cakes in Space and Pugs of the Frozen North.