''Railsea'' is a novel by Creator/ChinaMieville, officially YoungAdult. However, the "young adult" part mainly means a lack of swearing, sex or graphic violence, rather than any lack of mindbendingness.

Sham ap Soorap is an unhappy surgeon's mate on the ''Medes'', a moling train than plies the lethal ground of the railsea and hunts the giant moldywarpes that live at the top of its food chain -- especially Mocker-Jack, the huge blond moldywarpe that took Captain Naphi's arm. But when Sham is picked to search a wrecked train, he finds himself in possession of a {{MacGuffin}} that various nasty people are looking for.

* ActionGirl: Several, especially Naphi, Caldera, and Sirocco.
%%* ActionSurvivor: Sham.%%ZCE
* AdmiringTheAbomination: Naphi's quasi-fangirlish (and rather disturbing) attitude towards Mocker-Jack. Her entire crew calls her out on it.
* AdventurerArchaeologist: Salvors, who make a living by scavenging the detritus of the Railsea. The most famous ones specialize in LostTechnology.
* AfterTheEnd: Although thousands of years after, and nobody really remembers the details.
* AlienGeometries: Played with: the [[spoiler:single, straight rail that leads to Heaven]] wholly defies the basic logic of the railsea, but there's nothing actually ''unnatural'' about it.
* AlienSky: The sky over the railsea, where [[{{Kaiju}} massive atmospheric beasts]] watch for prey from among the toxic clouds.
* AmbiguousGender: Dr. Fremlo.
--> "So you going to be a moler's doctor, Sham?" Timon said. Sham shrugged. "Going to turn out like your boss? No one knowing if you're a man or a woman?"
--> "Shut up," Sham said uncomfortably. "Fremlo's Fremlo."
* AndTheAdventureContinues: [[spoiler:The ending has the main characters going off to seek adventure on an even bigger scale.]]
* AnimalNemesis: Parodied. The town that Sham comes from expects every '''real''' hunter to have one. It is referred to as 'having a philosophy,' because not only do you need to have an animal nemesis, you also need to find some sort of symbolic or metaphorical meaning to your pursuit.
* AttackOfThe50FootWhatever: The railsea is filled to the platforms with various oversized, predatory critters, from man-sized leaping deathworms to burrowing owls big enough to wrestle trains off their tracks. Mocker-Jack, the giant mole that Naphi spends the book tracking down, goes straight into {{Kaiju}} territory.
* BerserkButton: Captain Naphi's philosophy is ''not'' yellow! That said, the trope is slightly subverted with the captain; she doesn't fly into a rage when people insist that Mocker-Jack is yellow, she instead makes very poetic speeches about all the shades of ''not'' yellow he is. Most other characters find this hilarious.
* BlueAndOrangeMorality: The angels are described as such. The railgoing ones are dedicated to keeping the tracks clean above all else. "All else" including whether or not there's still a train on the tracks they're about to roll through.
* BrokenAce: Naphi is supposedly one of the best moletrain captains out there, a rumor she can back up pretty damn well through badassery, but the more screentime she gets, the clearer it becomes that for all her skill and prowess, she's dangerously emotionally unstable.
%%* BrotherSisterTeam: Caldera and Dero Shroake.%%ZCE
* CallARabbitASmeerp: Most of the weirder creatures that seem mundane have weird names like the giant moles, birds, and some insects.
%%* CavalryBetrayal: The Manihiki army.%%ZCE
%%* TheChase: Most of the Shroake siblings' arc is this.%%ZCE
* CollectorOfTheStrange: Salvors are this practically by definition.
* CoolBigSis: Sirocco, the friendly salvor who frequently stops by to lend our heroes a hand.
* CoolTrain:
** Many, especially the ''Medes'' and the Shroakes' exploration train.
** The Angels (at least, the ones that travel on tracks).
* CueTheRain: After the ''Medes'' crew finishes battling the Siller.
* DerelictGraveyard
* DesertPunk: Takes place on an "ocean" that's a monster infested wasteland dotted with raised "islands" and crisscrossed with railways whose trains are treated much like ships -- so, in a weird way, it manages to combine both this ''and'' OceanPunk. [[spoiler:The ending implies that the main quartet are leaping headfirst into the latter genre.]]
%%* TheDeterminator: Naphi, and not in a good way.%%ZCE - how?
%%** Well, she ''is'' based on Captain Ahab...
* DieselPunk: Since it seems most technologies of the current era run off fossil fuels and everything has a mixed air of the idealized 1930's and 1940's both good and bad, this certainly fits.
* DrillTank: Sirocco's vehicle, the railsea equivalent of a submarine. Complete with periscope!
* TheEmpire: Manihiki is somewhere between this and an unsympathetically-portrayed EagleLand version of TheFederation, a supposed democracy with a major gap between rich and and poor and a nasty imperialist streak.
* EverythingTryingToKillYou: The ground outside the rock "islands", the "up-sky", oh and the lack of cover anywhere from the things below.
* FreakOut: [[spoiler: Naphi]] has a rather disturbing Freak Out scene after the [[spoiler: mutiny against her]] near the end.
* FutureImperfect: Justified, as this takes place ''thousands'' of years in the future ''as well as'' after a series of massive cataclysmic events (the sky becoming poisonous, aliens visiting Earth, the railsea being created), so it makes sense that nobody in the book really knows much about our time. Even facts of geography have been twisted or forgotten, since [[spoiler: the railsea and the remaining habitable islands are located on the long dried-up ocean floor, while much of what was once above sea level is now covered by the poisonous fog of the upsky.]]
** The home port of Sham and the ''Medes'' is known as Streggeye, [[spoiler: aka Easter (egg) Island]], watched over from its summit in the upsky by statues of local gods known as the Stonefaces.
** Mention is made of lost worlds located above the upsky boundary, such as the Nuzland [[spoiler: (New Zealand)]] and Sowmerick [[spoiler: (South America)]].
** "Oh shun, the vale of tears." [[spoiler:Nobody remembers what ''oceans'' are.]]
* GhostShip At least a few of these, especially the wrecked trains.
* GhostTown: Plenty of them in the background. [[spoiler:Heaven]] is the most significant on-screen example.
* GiantFlyer: The denizens of the upsky, which also cross over into StarfishAlien territory. They're explicitly described as alien, too.
* HasTwoMommies: Caldera and Dero. And a mommy as well.
* HeroicBSOD: [[spoiler: Captain Naphi]] near the end. [[spoiler: She never recovers]].
* HiddenHeartOfGold: Sirocco. Subverted in that she doesn't exactly act unnecessarily ''cruel'' to people, but she does act very aloof and "cool."
* HistoricalInJoke: One of the gods is "Railhater Beeching." He's named after Dr Richard Beeching, notorious in Britain (perhaps unfairly so) for closing vast numbers of railway lines.
* TheHunterBecomesTheHunted: Early on, Sham finds a salvaged tracker that he presents to Naphi, who later on uses it to tag Mocker-Jack. [[spoiler:It turns out that the device works both ways, and a very annoyed Mocker-Jack is now homing into the ''Medes'' with the purpose of wrecking it once and for all. [[EgomaniacHunter All according to plan for Naphi]].]]
* InsistentTerminology: Mocker-Jack, Captain Naphi's AnimalNemesis, is not yellow. He's ''ivory''. Also, the consistent use of "&" in place of "and", which gets discussed in one chapter.
* LastBastion: [[spoiler:Subverted -- the controller and 'Heaven's Citizens' have turned into degenerate primitives and the Railsea dwellers are doing much better than they are.]]
* LastNameBasis: Naphi and Sirocco. Their first names are mentioned maybe twice or three times in the narration, but no character ever actually says Naphi's first name, and the only time Sirocco's first name is spoken is by Sirocco herself when introducing herself to Sham. (Note: their first names are Abacat and Travisande, respectively).
* LayeredWorld: Not literally. But it's common knowledge that the sky has two layers and the world has four.
** The sky is divided into the "downsky", which is basically normal. Then, two or three miles up, the downsky is suddenly replaced by the lethally poisonous "upsky", home to various unpleasant and gigantic alien flyers.
** The first layer of the ground is the underground "subterrestrial", home to all the tunneling monsters that inhabit the railsea. Above it is the second layer, the railsea itself. Above the railsea is the third layer, consisting of all the habitable islands and continents, and above those are the fourth layer: the highlands, high enough to jut into the upsky itself.
* LemonyNarrator
* LowCultureHighTech: Played with. Though the dwellers of the railsea seem to be doing fine with their [[CoolTrain trains]], primitive biplanes and advanced digital recorders/trackers, their lack of understanding of the world's nature, along with the generally strung-out cultures of the various rock-island civilisations and weird linguistics, gives off a general impression more reminiscent of, say, the Golden Age of Piracy than anything else.
* MegaCorp: [[spoiler:The world became the way it is now due to an apocalyptic trade-war between several of these.]]
* MiseryBuildsCharacter: Played fairly straight with Sham's character development. Completely inverted with Naphi, however, who [[spoiler: suffers a [[HeroicBSOD complete mental breakdown]]]] & actually ''loses'' characterization.
* MobySchtick: The plot involving Naphi & Mocker-Jack.
%%* MorePredatorsThanPrey: Lampshaded in the narration.%%ZCE
%%* NotSoSafeHarbour: Bollons
* NotSoStoic: Captain Naphi spends a lot of her screentime seeming [[TheStoic deadpan & collected, if not]] [[IceQueen slightly inconsiderate]], but after [[spoiler: the mutiny against her]], she starts screaming & nearly crying, & even temporarily loses her ability to speak out of pure shock.
** MaskOfSanity: Her sudden emotional instability actually isn't sudden at all, as over the course of the book it becomes more & more apparent that she's not exactly sane.
** AmbiguousDisorder: It's clear Naphi is far from sane, but exactly how is hard to describe coherently.
* ObfuscatingDisability: [[spoiler:Naphi.]]
* OhCrap: Sham on multiple occasions, the Shroakes on about an equal amount of occasions, & Naphi when she realizes [[spoiler: she's being overthrown]].
* TheProudElite: Most of the ''Medes'' crew sees Captain Naphi as this.
* TheQuietOne: Captain Naphi. She starts out only speaking to people when necessary, though after [[spoiler: the ''Medes'' crew's mutiny]], she very nearly stops talking altogether.
* RevengeBeforeReason: What else to expect from a plot semi-based on ''Moby-Dick''?
* SandWorm: A whole ecosystem of them, of invertebrate, mammalian and even avian varieties.
* SanitySlippage: Naphi -- subverted, as it eventually becomes apparent that she'd been unstable the whole time, but was just having an increasingly hard time hiding it.
%%* ScavengedPunk
%%* ScavengerWorld
* SchizoTech: The "modern" trains run off diesel, but they share the tracks with various analogues powered by {{steam|Punk}}, {{clock|Punk}}work, "[[AppliedPhlebotinum hermetic engines]]", [[RuleOfCool sails]] and ''rhinos''. Also, the whole world is basically train-powered -- but almost nobody remembers that the very rails they run on are human creations.
* ScyllaAndCharybdis: Or, the Siller -- a monstrous upsky creature disguised as a pillar of rock, until it sprouts fanged tentacles to eat the crew of passing trains -- and the Kribbis Hole, a massive sinkhole surrounded by "trap rails" that shift course to send trains careening into it. To navigate the Kribbis Hole, you have to bring yourself into range of the Siller.
* SeriousBusiness: To most moletrain captains, philosophy is the actual meaning of life--but most people find their obsessions absolutely ridiculous & only pretend to take them seriously because they're in charge.
* SheWillComeForMe: Sham while being held captive aboard the ''Tarralesh.'' Captain Elrish explains that no, Naphi will not rescue Sham, because he had already forged a letter supposedly from Sham claiming that he had left the ''Medes'' crew voluntarily to become a salvor.
* ShoutOut: To ''Literature/RoadsidePicnic'' (with the incidental mention of the name Strugatsky) and ''WesternAnimation/ThomasTheTankEngine'' (with the top-hatted god named That Apt Ohm -- a SignificantAnagram)
** There is also a ShoutOut to the 1969 film ''The Bed-Sitting Room;', in which Mrs Ethel Shroake (of 393A, High Street, Leytonstone) is the closest surviving successor to the throne of Great Britain.
** Furthering the Moby Dick parallels, Abacat Naphi = [[SignificantAnagram Captain Ahab]].
** There's one chapter where Sham is trainwrecked on a deserted island. Unconscious, he dreams about an alternate outcome for his current predicament, the plot outline of which appears to be a WholePlotReference for ''Literature/RobinsonCrusoe'' .
** The Siller and Kribbis Hole are, of course, a nod to Scylla and Charybdis from ''Literature/TheOdyssey'' .
** The very concept of a Moldywarpe is cribbed wholesale from Roman writer Pliny The Elder's encyclopedia Natural History. At one point in his book, Pliny describes a town near Thessaly menaced by a Moldywarpe, a mole so large that its tunnelling under the town caused an earthquake.
* SkywardScream: In a rare literature example, Captain Naphi does this right before [[spoiler: going insane]] near the end.
* TheStoic: Naphi, for most of the book.
* SugarAndIcePersonality
* SummonBiggerFish: Multiple examples. The first one is when [[spoiler:Sham escapes from the pirate train ''Tarralesh'' when it gets shot to bits by a Manihiki wartrain]]. Said assailant reappears to chase down the ''Medes'' at the climax, only to be [[spoiler:vaporised by a rail angel. With the angel now hot on their tracks, Sham & Sirocco decide to [[CrazyEnoughToWork lure in Mocker-Jack with a two-way tracker]], which eventually culminates in the philosophy & the angel fighting & plummeting down [[BottomlessPits a chasm]]]].
* {{Terraforming}}: [[spoiler:The railsea used to be an actual sea, before a great company war in aeons past drained it up to lay tracks over.]]
* TerseTalker: Naphi always either speaks using the absolute minimum amount of words -- [[PurpleProse or the absolute maximum, when she's making speeches]]. Both, understandably, irritate Sham.
* TransplantedHumans: It is mentioned at least twice that the humans of this world come from another & at one time had space travel.
* TraumaCongaLine: Naphi at the end. [[spoiler: She gets publicly humiliated, her crew turn against her, her first mate betrays her, she is overthrown & forced to help some kids she doesn't know, her philosophy is murdered in front of her by the very person who'd been using her to get ''his'' philosophy the whole time, she then ''finds out'' that he'd been using her, then tries to kill herself & is saved by the very people who just betrayed & used her, ends up being held down & chained up, & completely loses everyone's respect. At one point, she's so deep in shock that she temporarily loses the ability to speak; ultimately, by the end of the book, she's so desperate to be part of something interesting/important that she resigns herself to helping three kids explore for the sake of exploration, without any goal or aim]].
* TreasureMap: A series of photographs found on a buried memory card, detailing various landmarks on the path towards Heaven & its fabled vast riches.
* UnnecessarilyCreepyRobot: The "Angels" both flying & on rail; they are portrayed in an almost 'demonic' fashion & feel very creepy in both description & the Railsea dweller's fears.
* UnroboticReveal: [[spoiler:Naphi, when her "prosthetic" arm gets damaged & starts bleeding, revealing that she was ObfuscatingDisability the whole time.]]
* VelvetRevolution: The mutiny against [[spoiler: Captain Naphi]] near the end. Absolutely no violence was involved. In fact, in the end, what allowed the mutiny to succeed was [[spoiler: because the captain was too ''kind'' & couldn't bring herself to beat her crew back into line, even though she easily could have]].
* WholePlotReference: As previously mentioned, it's a ''really weird'' version of Literature/MobyDick. Complete with every other chapter being an informational aside on the world the characters live in... until the halfway mark, anyways.
* WordSaladPhilosophy: Captain Nathi spouts one of these when it's revealed that [[spoiler: she still has both arms.]] Vurinam notices.
-->''"That don't even bloody ''mean'' anything!" he despaired. "It's complete bloody gibberish!"''
* YouHaveOutlivedYourUsefulness: [[spoiler:The crew of ''Tarralesh are [[{{Privateer}} government-sanctioned privateers]], not pirates. This stops mattering when they refuse to hand over Sham to [[CurbStompBattle the Manihiki ferronavy]].]]
* ZillionDollarBill: [[spoiler:It turns out that the nameless MegaCorp that built Heaven (along with all of the railsea) were charging the trainsfolk with usage fee, & their feral descendants are living with the prophecy that the users will one day return to pay the accumulated debt of many, many lifetimes (with interest).]]