Creating a compelling story for young adult readers can be a daunting task to undertake. The author needs to make a story with relatable characters and a tight plot, all whilst telling a story full of adventure. Luckily, Philip Reeve has managed to do this with his previous works, and now returns with his new novel Railhead.
Railhead follows a young boy called Zen Starling in very much a story focused on adventure. The main premise of the book is that the galaxy is now linked through a series of train networks, and travelling from one planet to another via a train is completely normal. The novel is focused on Zen and his thieving ways, but it soon becomes clear that there are hidden mysterious to be solved. However, the character of Zen can seem a bit bland, but this is likely to be a compromise that had to be made due to the shortness of the book when compared to other science fiction novels.
The novel is well paced, with Reeves managing to understand the needs of young adult readers. However, the novel does also work for adult readers, but the relatability of the work may make it less appealing.
It is very much a straightforward adventure tale, with many mysterious events occurring. This will be more suited to fans of sci-fi, but the epic fantasy elements contained within the novel will make it appealing to more than just fans of science fiction. Although the novel does have quite an original story, it can be difficult to create a novel that is completely original, and it is clear that the novel was very much inspired by other major sci-fi novels.
The small scope of Railhead allows this to be a great starting point if a reader is keen to try reading sci-fi. For young adult readers, however, this novel may be the stand out sci-fi novel of the year. Although not overly a breakthrough novel, the story allows for a great read for young adult readers.
RAILHEAD / AUTHOR: PHILIP REEVE / PUBLISHER: OUP OXFORD / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW