Never have I ever come across a book quite as bold as Rian Hughes’ sophomore release, The Black Locomotive. Blending literature with both art and real-world commentary, I’m not sure I ever really knew exactly what I held in my hands as I flipped through the pages of this book; I just knew that I was enjoying every minute.

With an expansion set for London's rail network, various members of the team involved in making that expansion a reality share their perspective on everything that goes down. Hughes makes sure to treat the reader to a separate font for each character and their point of view, so that they are distinctly unique.

Right under Buckingham Palace, site manager Austin Arnold and the project's resident artist Lloyd Rutherford offer their personal understanding - or misunderstanding - of the anomaly that they quickly discover underground, whilst working on the aptly-named Elizabeth Line. Other members of the team occasionally give their point of view, allowing a range of different 

The anomaly is soon revealed to be a mysterious structure, complete with a keyhole and a door that instantly has the reader asking questions alongside the characters involved.

Scenes are complemented with the use of construction diagrams, along with the front of steam train enthusiast member magazines and more. It not only deals a dose of nostalgia for those who miss the days of enjoying illustrations alongside their stories, but brings another stunning layer of immersion for readers.

If you’re a fan of sci-fi and all stuff geeky, then this novel will likely leave you with a smile on your face. It won’t, of course, be for everybody. Some may feel that the linguistic acrobatics Hughes often puts the reader through are unnecessary and I must admit, at times I was left reaching for my phone to search up a definition for a word or two, which can be distracting and take you out of the moment.

This is a minor problem however, and our author here does more than enough to make up for it, with an enchanting and addictive narrative that will stick with you long after you’ve read the final few pages.

The Black Locomotive by Rian Hughes is out now, published by Picador.

MORE FROM BOOK REVIEWS: Underbelly by Anna Whitehouse

by for
find me on and follow me on