Train to Nowhere

Rated 4.45/5 based on 11 reviews
A train--the Orphan world--glides across mountains. Destination? Nowhere. The illegally-born must live inside, for Admin wills it. But young Garland, Orphan musician, seeks a different destination. Freedom. To find it, he struggles against Admin's mind control. His only escape may lie with a mysterious woman who is led by a strange spirit to which he must connect. If he can figure out how.

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About Gloria Piper

When working in biology, I missed art. When working in art, I missed biology. It took a bout of multiple chemical sensitivities to limit me to writing. At last here was a niche in which I felt old-clothes comfortable. At last I could indulge all my interests, from art and science to nature and spirituality, from reality to fantasy. My most recent awards range from honorable mention to editor's choice for my science fiction and fantasy writing.

I live in Northern California with my husband of late years who thinks I'm the most beautiful lady he's ever met and tells me a hundred times a day in a hundred ways how much he loves me.

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annaklane reviewed on on Jan. 2, 2018

Train to Nowhere is set in a dystopian world in which a population crisis led to the three castes: Orphans, Landeds, and Nomads. The two main characters, Garland and Hedge, come from two different cultures. Orphan Garland lives on a train that travels aboveground permanently. Hedge lives among the Landeds, a relatively ‘more moral’ society than Orphan.

This coming-of-age story focuses on Garland who, naïve at first, has to grow as he’s thrust into the Landeds world and has to struggle to find out who he really is and where he belongs.
Hedge’s dark and manipulating nature is fascinating to read about while Garland comes out as indecisive and naïve.

The strength of the book lies in the world-building, from the interior of the Silver Snake to the Western World of the Landeds with carriages and horses to the Nomads with clan-like, reminiscent of Native American tribes. Orphans and Landeds are controlled by a computer AI known as Admin –part human and AI. It’s not made very clear in the beginning why the AI looks after the Orphans, but it’s implied that some of them become the AI.

The beginning of the book with the Orphan jargon is quite jarring and, unfortunately, and frustratingly, needs a lot of rereads. Had the book started with Hedge, it would have been more relatable and an easy digest for the reader. It took time to get used to and for me to understand and figure out the meaning of the jargon. I ended up quite lost and rereading dialogues after dialogue. Readers are, oh, so impatient these days, but it’s worth keeping at it as the three worlds are so well-described.

The Nomad world, which combines the physical/spatial freedom and the freedom of expression –both that Garland yearns for is not without its faults. The elders of the tribes/clans trust in the spirit instead of choosing modern medicine and facilities the Landed citizens have. Garland nearly dies from sickness.

Even though the story is well-developed and structured in three parts, I didn’t connect with any of the characters, but it was an enjoyable read nevertheless. Other than population crisis, it wasn’t very clear how the worlds came to recede to such Western-like (carriages drawn by horses). The climax of a competition about… performing left me quite baffled. Both protagonists are talented, one more flamboyant than the other. My expectations somewhat revolved around Garland fighting the main evil who stay in power by keeping the castes separate and each prejudiced against each other: Garland v/s Admin.
(reviewed 51 days after purchase)
Darrell B Nelson reviewed on on Nov. 26, 2017

TRAIN TO NOWHERE is much darker than Piper's other books. It explores the roles placed on individuals by society. It's as if Huxley's BRAVE NEW WORLD and Twain's THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER became intertwined. With the best ideas from both.
In the book we travel with Garland as he moves from the very structured Orphan society on the Train which is run by "The Admin", to the Landed society in the cities, which is ruled by public opinion (not informed opinion, just opinion) and the Nomads ruled by tradition.
There is a lot of depth in this book, but don't let that stop you from enjoying it. Its focus is firmly on the characters, mostly Garland and Hedge.
As a villain Hedge is great, he worked hard to get to his position in Landed society, so when his "Landed Privilege" all the soft advantages (or in this case not so soft) afforded to him by being raised in Landed society, are taken away he is angry at all those who have taken away the fruits of his labors. So he while being an entitled a-hole, he also does have a legitimate gripe, he did actual work hard to get his position.
Garland is the hero, but not a perfect hero, he is on the edge of ruthless in pursuit of his dream. Not really understanding the line between compromise and selling out, not that those around him make it easy.
All and all this is a very readable book with great depth.
(reviewed 22 days after purchase)
Damian Knight reviewed on on Dec. 3, 2015

Train to Nowhere is set in a distant future in which humanity has been divided into three distinct castes: Orphans, Landeds and Nomads. Forced to live out their lives in endlessly circling trains with no access to the outside, Orphans – the illegitimate children of Landeds – are the unwanted. Although Orphan society is the most technologically advanced of the three, their freedoms are severely impinged by Mentor, a computer programme that controls almost every aspect of their lives. Landeds, on the other hand, have unrestricted access to the outside and can even holiday on Orphan trains. They regard themselves as superior, but live in a puritanical, low-tech society that does not permit sex before marriage, frowns upon flamboyant clothing and has returned to horse power as the primary source of transport. Nomads live outside the system and, as the name suggests, spend their lives roaming from place to place in small tribes or clans. While the freest of the castes, Nomads are subject to the disadvantages of disease, wild animal attacks and the other dangers of their migratory lifestyles.

The story unfolds through the eyes of two brothers, both musicians. Garland is an Orphan and, like most of his kind, yearns to escape the train and experience the outside first-hand. When it is revealed that his adopted parents had an illegal second child – Hedge – the pair are made to swap places, with Garland becoming Landed and a vengeful Hedge taking his place on the train.

The book is highly original, well written and tackles some interesting themes, such as identity and belonging. Both the innocent Garland and the ruthlessly ambitious Hedge are well characterised and engaging, with strong personal motivations driving their actions. I would have liked to know a bit more about circumstances that gave rise to this society. While the subject is touched upon, I felt it could have been more fully developed. This is a minor quibble, however, and overall I was hugely impressed by Train to Nowhere. I would have no hesitation in recommending this book to other readers, and will keep an eye out for more of this author’s work.
(reviewed 38 days after purchase)
Anna Fantabulous reviewed on on Feb. 1, 2015

A sci-fi with trains and horses - in exactly that order - about a dystopian society created by humans when they saw our world at a crossroads of shrinking population. The new world order is run by Admin (part machine, part-human) and consists of 3 groups of people with unclear functions: ‘Orphans’ who ride a self-propelled train for eternity, only seeing simulations of land. Some of them are groomed to take over as Admin staff. We are introduced to the hero Garland who is an Orphan, a singing artist with a female partner Little Byte. He is also student of Dos who is a librarian and fitness guru. He dreams of jumping off the train and seeing the world. He can’t.

The second group of people are called ‘Landed’ (who ride trains that are pulled by 21 horses but they get off and hold jobs as farmers, shopkeepers, solar energy workers etc.). Hedge is the villain, and at 19 he is 6 months younger to Garland. He is an excellent performer (who cheats his way up the ranks), has a solo act dancing and playing violin, and is part of prestigious Golden Performers Guild. He is happy where he is.

The third group is that of ‘Nomads’ (who live in the wild - think the Wild West and Native Americans).

Orphans and Landed are ‘scored’ by Admin and take orders from computers ‘Mentor’ and ‘Landed Authority’ respectively which hand out rewards and punishments while Nomads have to fend for themselves and have their own spiritual guide / Authority called ‘That-Who-Knows’.

Admin lives in a hidden city beneath them all in an underground station.

The conflict in the story arises when Admin finds out the truth about Hedge: that his Landed parents were given a child to raise and that child was Garland and that the parents did not accept this decision. They procreated to have Hedge and when he turned three they bribed some record keeper into changing the fate of Garland: who was thrown on the Orphan train. So technically, Hedge is living a life not meant for him and not ordained by the Admin. The Authority sets out to ‘right the wrong’ and banishes Hedge to Orphan train and replaces him in Landed with Garland. This makes Hedge angry, resentful and vengeful - he wants nothing more than to get his place in the Guild back, even if he has to kill a few people on the way. Garland, however, is happy because he gets to breathe in open air for once and not just that - he soon runs off to be with Nomads, enter into a marriage of convenience with Mystery Rider, falls for her and the Nomad way of life.

The showdown between the two seemed whimsical to me - instead of guns, swords, blows or even mental gimmickry, Garland and Hedge have a duel of songs and violin-playing! But it’s Piper’s world and it’s original.

I received a free copy of the book in exchange for a fair, unbiased and non-reciprocal review.
(reviewed 78 days after purchase)
A.J. Stewart reviewed on on May 8, 2014

Train to Nowhere is a wonderfully painted dystopian world, as brightly realized as the styles of the Orphans portrayed within it. It is very much a story of culture shock, and author Piper drops the reader in the middle of it, with no compass or backstory. This is disorienting in the beginning, but feels right as the story goes on as it gives the reader a sense of what Garland and Hedge are going through. The characters are well developed and I think those who enjoy dystopian type stories will find this twist on them an engrossing read.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
(reviewed 15 days after purchase)
Dustin Stevens reviewed on on Feb. 18, 2014

For those that enjoy classic literature situations - good vs. evil, pressures of not fitting in, social injustice, class pressures - Train to Nowhere is exactly what they are wanting. For those that like those situations with a twist, Train to Nowhere delivers in a big way.

Train to Nowhere follows two estranged brothers, Garland and Hedge. They begin in opposite worlds and through a series of events stretching back decades are forced to switch places. What ensues is each trying to find a way in their new surroundings, full of all the usual self-doubt and uncertainty that comes with it.

What really sets this book apart though is the world that Ms. Piper has created. These are recognizable and relatable ordeals the characters face, but they are delivered in a manner that keeps the reader wanting more. The settings, from the interior of the Silver Snake to the plains of the Nomads, are relayed with vivid detail and the characters are well-developed and unique.

An enjoyable read from start to finish. Highly recommended.
(reviewed 11 days after purchase)
Meldrum House Publishing reviewed on on Oct. 31, 2013

"This is your destiny, your world, oh Orphan. You cannot escape."

With this sub-title Gloria Piper sets up a dystopian future where a caste system rules the planet. Admins are at the top of the chain with Landeds and Orphans finding their place respectively. Separate from them all are the Nomads.

The story centers on Garland, an Orphan who is relegated to the Sun Train after being elevated from the Sub Train. At all costs, the Orphans want to stay off the Hive Train. The voice of the Admin, a computer named Mentor, lulls the Orphans into a feeling of safety and security while providing for all their needs; thus leaving no reason to want to leave. Garland is an entertainer with a desire to find his way outside the Train. In the process we meet Little Byte, Dos, Tillman, Hedge and a full cast of characters as he proceeds on his journey.

The language of the Orphans consists of the use of digital technology jargon to describe and name things. One quickly falls into the vernacular and it all makes perfect sense. It all culminates in a duel between Garland and Hedge, after each has experienced a number of harrowing situations.

Piper's rich, descriptive language quickly creates a world and inhabitants that are both believable and palpable. Her narrative is almost poetic in its beauty and elegance. The story arc for the plot and characters is well crafted and developed. This book should be read, even it it is only to experience her ability to use the English language to bring the world she writes about to life.

I highly recommend this novel to anyone who has an interest in dystopian works...or just wants to read a beautifully crafted piece of work.
(reviewed 19 days after purchase)
Robert D. Spake reviewed on on Oct. 1, 2013

I thought Train to Nowhere was interesting. I enjoyed the world that the author created and actually I was a little disappointed that it wasn't explored as fully as I thought it could have been. I enjoyed the writing style though, it was clear, straightforward and engaging. I especially liked the terms of slang she peppered throughout the dialogue, it gave the story a lot of authenticity and helped me to immerse myself in the world.

The book is split into three parts. The first two parts I found very interesting but I'm sad to say the third part lost me a little. It felt like there was a more epic story in there somewhere and I would have preferred to read that. I think part of the problem was that I didn't feel particularly invested in the character the story eventually focused on. However, I did enjoy the parallels drawn between Garland and Hedge and I thought the contrast between their characters was well-developed.
(reviewed 13 days after purchase)
Patricia Hamill reviewed on on July 7, 2013


Train to Nowhere is YA Dystopian at its finest. The story opens with Garland "venting his frustration" in a performance with his partner, Little Byte. The theme: Outside, anywhere outside! The euphoria is short lived, however, when reality snaps him into post-performance depression. His friends, especially the librarian Dos and Little Byte, try to cheer him up. But rumors that his already claustrophobic world will soon shrink even further fill his mind, for Garland is an Orphan, illegally born and fated to live out his entire life on one of the Orphan trains, never to see the sky, feel the wind on his face, or know true freedom. Sure, he can pull them up on the view screen in his room, but it will always be VR (virtual reality).

Most Orphans are content with their lot, but Garland remembers a time when he wasn't on the train: sunshine through a window, a blue quilt, a companion. Unlike the others, Garland remembers the outside. The games, the diversions, and the "jobs" given orphans to placate them are not enough when freedom is all he desires. Then, he learns that his friend Dos has a plan to escape.

Meanwhile, another musician, this one Landed, looks over his domain in utter triumph. Having clawed over his colleagues through guile and deceit, Hedge stands ready to advance in the ranks of the illustrious Golden Performers Guild. Nothing and no one can stand in his way, especially if he has anything to do about it.

The story is riveting, the three castes (Orphan, Landed and Nomad) are fully developed and intriguing, and Admin is terrifying. Admin cares, or does it? The question haunts Garland throughout his adventures and misadventures. Fundamental beliefs about security vs. freedom are explored. Garland's quest to find where he belongs and who he really is under all the programming keeps you guessing until the very end. Enemies, both internal and external, challenge him at every turn.

I loved this book and have to rate it a solid five stars. If I could rate it higher, I wouldn't hesitate to do so. The quirky lingo of the Orphans, the character names derived from old computer terms, the sinister enemies and the unique caste culture hooked me from the start and kept me entranced until the utterly satisfying end.

I would recommend this book to lovers of ya dystopian books, like Hunger Games or Moon Dwellers, as well as sci fi fans who are looking for something different (no spaceships, but the train is pretty close).

I am grateful to have received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest, non-reciprocal review.
(reviewed 28 days after purchase)
Dean Johnston reviewed on on Feb. 2, 2013

Train to Nowhere is a very creative sci-fi journey that portrays a strange future society on an Earth ravaged by overpopulation (if I've read the clues correctly). It doesn't provide any straightforward recounting of the history of this new world but lets you learn as you go based on the lives the characters lead. In general I much prefer the subtlety of this style, although I did find it a little difficult to come to a full understanding of this unfamiliar era and could have used maybe just a bit more structural background.

The main characters are set up to be compared and contrasted at every turn and, personally, I was fascinated by the ongoing nature vs nurture undertones. But make no mistake, the two characters, Garland and Hedge, are nothing alike in the end as it builds to a suspenseful conclusion.

All in all, Piper has created a very imaginative world with well-nuanced characters and leads the reader through a captivating story. My only complaint is that in the context of this post-apocalyptic world the characters' story lines, while surely symbolic, seemed a touch mundane considering the epic nature of the changes our world had undergone. I kept expecting things to tie together into a larger narrative that effected everyone we had been introduced to. But regardless, it is an enjoyable, exciting read, and one I can definitely recommend.
(reviewed 22 days after purchase)
Lynn Blackmar reviewed on on Jan. 14, 2013

Train to Nowhere strikes me as a fiction book about culture shock. Once you get into the story, the world of the trains is fascinating, but as the character grapple with their own culture shock, the reader feels the pressure of trying to understand the viewpoints of the characters birthed by these clashing cultures. The two main characters, Garland and Hedge, come from vastly different cultures, and the book switches between their points of view. The world is post-apocalyptic with a strong rule, but I was fascinated that this wasn’t judged as bad, just as different, and that events in the past led to the divisions in the cultures portrayed in the story. So, while this could be considered dystopian, I would regard it more like fantasy or science fiction with a post-apocalyptic twist.

Hedge comes from a Amish-like culture. As a character, he is compelling, with such strong flaws that you can’t help but wonder where his story is going. Garland is from a more science fiction-influenced rave culture, with relaxed boundaries compared to the more moral population of Hedge’s culture. I had a little more trouble becoming enveloped in Garland’s story, because I felt like he was too naive at times. Perhaps that’s my own cynical nature in conflict. There is a third culture, the Nomads, which are styled from tribal societies, but it is awhile in the book before we learn more about them. The three cultures are generally kept separate, and rarely mix, which causes the dramatic sense of culture shock for both of the main characters, and the readers by extension.

The change of points of view was a little startling, but showed the cultures from their own perspectives. There was enough time before each switch to ingrain the reader into the character, which is a weakness of other books I’ve read in a similar style. I do think the culture shock may be too great for some readers, and that might frighten them away. It might have been easier to have Hedge introduce the reader into the book, as his culture is more familiar to modern readers than the cultures of the Orphans.

I didn’t notice any glaring grammatical or spelling mistakes. This book seems well-edited, and the .mobi format worked fine on my Kindle Fire.
(reviewed 34 days after purchase)

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