Train to Nowhere
on Jan. 02, 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.