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All Aboard

Ride the sentient rails in Black Light Express, the follow up to Philip Reeve’s Railhead.

All Aboard

BOOK REPORT for Black Light Express (Railhead #2) by Philip Reeve

Cover Story: Light at the End of the Tunnel
BFF Charm: Yay and Nay
Swoonworthy Scale: 3
Talky Talk: Science Fiction Adventure
Bonus Factors: Return to the K-bahn, Shades of His Dark Materials
Relationship Status: Adventure Companions

Danger, Will Robinson! Black Light Express is the second book in the Railhead series. If you have not read the first book—Railhead—turn away now. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. If you have read the books, however, feel free to continue below. I will refrain from major spoilers in my review, but there might be hints at plot points and details about the story.

Cover Story: Light at the End of the Tunnel

The cover to this book is a little more obvious than that of its predecessor, but still fits with the “club lighting and trains” feel. This cover, however, promises adventure—or at least, the unknown—with the tracks leading into the light.

The Deal:

After Zen and Nova escape through Raven’s new K-gate, they find themselves in a different part of the universe among a variety of new species. At first, they’re content to stay, learning and exploring, acting as ambassadors of humanity. But there’s something to be said about home, and events lead them to seek out a different way back, since they can’t return the way they came.

And at home, things aren’t going so well for new Empress Threnody Noon. People are grumbling about the changes she’s making (even though she’s just a pawn) and a rival noble family is plotting a rise to power.

BFF Charm: Yay and Nay

Although Zen was the main character of Railhead, he takes a bit of a backseat to the ladies in Black Light Express.

Nova, the extremely human Motorik, grows quite a lot, character-wise, in Black Light Express. She becomes a leader and finds her humanity in her relationship with Zen, but also finds her true self—whatever that might mean #nospoilers—thanks to events in the latter half of the book. She’s by far the most interesting character in the novel, and I would definitely gravitate toward her were I a part of her ragtag group.

Threnody, on the other hand, sadly remains a stereotype. Though there are glimpses that she might become a better person, her elite upbringing makes her a naive, selfish person, and there aren’t signs that she wants or realizes that she needs to change. I wouldn’t want to hang out with her at all.

Swoonworthy Scale: 3

Nova and Zen are together throughout Black Light Express, and there are moments of sweetness between the two, but the plot of the book doesn’t make much room for swoon.

Also, Nova’s way too good for Zen. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Talky Talk: Science Fiction Adventure

Black Light Express is a true science fiction novel. It’s about humanity’s far future, in which we live on a variety of planets throughout the universe, and space travel (on trains, rather than spaceships, but the outcome is the same), and features aliens who look and act nothing like humans and crazy intelligent inorganic species who are seen as gods. The plot of the story sometimes takes a backseat to the world building, but the universe Philip Reeve created for the story is almost more interesting than the story of the petty political machinations of humans who think (incorrectly) that they run things.

Bonus Factor: Return to the K-bahn

Railhead had an open ending, but not so much that I would have been disappointed had there never been a sequel. However, I’m glad Reeve wrote Black Light Express, if only so that I could learn more about the K-bahn system and “visit” the other worlds of the universe along with Zen and Nova.

Bonus Factor: Shades of His Dark Materials

Although the plots of Black Light Express and Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series are dissimilar, there’s something about Black Light Express that reminded me of Will and Lyra’s adventures, in a good way. I think it was the strange, all-too-alien aliens Zen and Nova meet after going through the new K-gate. I’ve never quite gotten over the mental image of those strange deer things that roll around on those nuts like they’re wheels.

Casting Call:

Arden Cho as Nova

Yara Shahidi as Threnody Noon

Relationship Status: Adventure Companions

I said it before, Book, but it remains true: I’d head out on adventures with you whenever you wanted. Our second date wasn’t as exciting as the first, but your world is too intriguing to pass up a chance at exploring.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Switch Press, but got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. Black Light Express is available now.

Mandy Curtis's photo About the Author: Mandy is a small town girl living in a nerdy world, or—if you want to get literal—an editor/writer living in Austin, TX. In addition to yearning for YA books—the more dystopian or fantastical, the better—she can also be found swooning over superheroes, dreaming of The Doctor and grinning at GIFs.
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