The Emperor’s Railroad

January 25, 2017 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , , )

railroadThe Emperor’s Railroad by Guy Haley


The Tor novella series has been pretty reliable this year. I haven’t liked all the ones I’ve read, but of the ones I did like, I liked them quite a bit. I’m usually hesitant to read shorter works, since I don’t always feel like they have enough time to develop plots and characters enough, but I also believe that a work should only be as long as necessary, and they’ve hit that mark well. The Emperor’s Railroad is another good one.

The novella is set in the future of our world, after a world war has devastated enough of the world to knock us back into a Medieval era. There are remnants of the world before — the roads are no longer there, but the tunnels and cuts through the mountains remain as clear signs of the roads — but most of them are gone. The best technology available is steam technology, but even then, its use is seen as blasphemy by many. There’s a religion based around Angels who caused the devastation, and punish the living with dragons and the undead. This future world is also overrun with zombies, though this is far from being a zombie story.

The story centers on Quinn, a Knight who was put in service by the Angels. Most are dead, so Quinn is a relic of sorts, and he takes on an assignment to get a mother and her son through the wastelands so they can start a new life with a cousin. The story is told from the son’s perspective as he retells the story far in the future when he’s an old man, but Haley doesn’t skimp on the details because of that.

The bulk of the novella is in the world-building. He tells us the state of the world and how the religion has developed from the devastation, through events as they happen in the story. The son, the mother, and the Knight are all fully realized characters, but it’s their actions that tell us about this world. Haley also doesn’t overlook a plot through all of this, though, as what compels us to read the story is whether or not the son makes it to the city. It’s a perfect blend of plot and development.

The downside is that the bulk of the story is the world-building, tantalizing us with hints of a larger story that we won’t get in this brief book. There’s a second volume in this series already published (which I will definitely be reading), and I can see many more following if Haley continues it. I expect he will, since even two novellas doesn’t seem like enough space to tell everything about this world.

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