Train to Nowhere
on Dec. 03, 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.