Thunderer by Felix Gilman
It seems lately that a lot of books have come out where setting plays as large a role as character. I’m thinking of Jeff VanderMeer’s Ambergris, China Miéville’s New Crobuzon, Gregory Frost’s Shadowbridge, and Jay Lake’s Mainspring. Books that haven’t simply created a new world, but whose world itself is an integral part of the story, rather than just the physical part the story moves across.
Felix Gilman’s Thunderer certainly falls into that category — more successfully than some and less so than others. The setting is the city of Ararat... Read More
Felix Gilman(1974- )
Felix Gilman lives with his wife in New York City. Thunderer is his first novel. Read an excerpt at Felix Gilman’s website.
Thunderer — (2007-2008) Publisher: In this breathtaking debut novel by Felix Gilman, one man embarks on a thrilling and treacherous quest for his people’s lost god — in an elaborate Dickensian city that is either blessed… or haunted. Arjun arrives in Ararat just as a magnificent winged creature swoops and sails over the city. For it is the day of the return of that long-awaited, unpredictable mystical creature: the great Bird. But does it come for good or ill? And in the service of what god? Whatever its purpose, for one inhabitant the Bird sparks a long-dormant idea: to map the mapless city and liberate its masses with the power of knowledge. As the creature soars across the land, shifting topography, changing the course of the river, and redrawing the territories of the city’s avian life, crowds cheer and guns salute in a mix of science and worship. Then comes the time for the Bird’s power to be trapped — within the hull of a floating warship called Thunderer, an astounding and unprecedented weapon. The ship is now a living temple to the Bird, a gift to be used, allegedly, in the interests of all of Ararat. Hurtled into this convulsing world is Arjun, an innocent who will unwittingly unleash a dark power beyond his imagining — and become entangled in a dangerous underground movement that will forever transform Ararat. As havoc overtakes the streets, Arjun dares to test the city’s moving boundaries. In this city of gods, he has come to search among them, not to hide. A tour de force of the imagination, and a brilliant tale of rebellion, Thunderer heralds the arrival of a truly gifted fantasy writer who has created a tale as rich, wondrous, and captivating as the world in which it is set.
Thunderer by Felix Gilman
Thunderer by Felix Gilman
Felix Gilman's debut novel Thunderer is set in the city of Ararat — a name well-chosen for a place where gods are manifest. Not just a god, but many, many gods: gods evil and gods benign, gods appearing once in an eon and gods constantly present, gods changing the shape of the city and gods changing the shape of a life. The city itself is the real subject of the book, as I find to be the case with most New Weird fiction, a place of never-ending fascination.
But perhaps the description of a city alone cannot be a tale. Gilman does not leave us without plot, though there are times in the novel when it seems he'd like to endlessly explore the byways of the city without returning to his characters, who are often less interesting. Arjun is a young priest of the Voice, a god who has left its rural congregation; Arjun's theory is that the cit... Read More
Gears of the City by Felix Gilman
Despite a somewhat slow and haphazard beginning, I thought Felix Gilman’s Thunderer was one of the best debuts I read in 2007 and couldn’t wait to get my hands on the sequel. Alas, Gears of the City was a bit disappointing.
I think the biggest issue I had with the book were the characters. Simply put, I just didn’t care about any of them, which was a little surprising considering that returning protagonist, Arjun, was fairly compelling in Thunderer. In Gears of the City, Arjun’s goals are still the same — he’s searching for his lost god — but Arjun himself is changed, twisted by what he’s seen and experienced in Ararat, and he’s not always likeable. Plus, as the other characters are introduced... Read More
The Half-Made World — (2010-2011) Publisher: A fantastical reimagining of the American West which draws its influence from steampunk, the American western tradition, and magical realism. he world is only half made. What exists has been carved out amidst a war between two rival factions: the Line, paving the world with industry and claiming its residents as slaves; and the Gun, a cult of terror and violence that cripples the population with fear. The only hope at stopping them has seemingly disappeared — the Red Republic that once battled the Gun and the Line, and almost won. Now they’re just a myth, a bedtime story parents tell their children, of hope. To the west lies a vast, uncharted world, inhabited only by the legends of the immortal and powerful Hill People, who live at one with the earth and its elements. Liv Alverhyusen, a doctor of the new science of psychology, travels to the edge of the made world to a spiritually protected mental institution in order to study the minds of those broken by the Gun and the Line. In its rooms lies an old general of the Red Republic, a man whose shattered mind just may hold the secret to stopping the Gun and the Line. And either side will do anything to understand how.
The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman
The Half-Made World, by Felix Gilman, is a strikingly original book that, though it has its flaws, is a fascinating opening to a new world and characters. I look forward to rejoining when the sequel (and the title “The Half-Made World “pretty much mandates a sequel) arrives.
The Half-Made World is set in an alternate America, but Gilman has gone well past the add-a-few-inventions-that-weren’t-there-and-change-the-Civil-War kind of alternate world-building here. We have an old, established East (which we don’t see much of) and an uncharted, still “uncreated” far West inhabited only by the immortal Hill People, who have either been driven from their eastern lands or enslaved. Between the East and the uncreated world lies the West, where nearly all the action takes place. Two rival groups of s... Read More
The Rise of Ransom City by Felix Gilman
If Horatio Alger, rather than Mark Twain, wrote the sequel to Huck Finn (though keeping Twain’s wry humor) after he lights out for the territories, and if Huck were possessed by the spirit of Nikola Tesla, and if the Wild West were the Wild West except that the trains and guns were all hosts for demons battling for supremacy while haunting both sides is the possibility of a sort of doomsday device, well, then you just might be close to approximating Felix Gilman’s The Rise of Ransom City, a kinda-sorta sequel to his The Half-Made World, which I had on my top ten list the year it came out. The Rise of Ransom City might not be quite that good, but it doesn’t fall far short.
In The Half-Made World, we were introduced to a West being ravaged by a war between The... Read More
Lightbringers and Rainmakers by Felix Gilman
Lightbringers and Rainmakers is a good novelette with some neat hooks tying it to the larger tale of The Half-Made World. We follow, as his business cards state, "Professor" Harry Ransom, Lightbringer &c, &c (who made a small walk-on cameo in The Half-Made World), one part charlatan and two parts idealistic scientist, as he is pulled into the midst of the inescapable war between the Line and the Gun. Not only has his “apparatus” once again been destroyed leaving him on the edge of poverty, but now he must deal with the machinations of a rival "scientist" (the rainmaker of the title) and the intrusion of the Line into the small western town he has found himself in as they cast their net in search of some characters we may be more familiar with from Felix Gilman's larger tale.
Ransom... Read More
Felix Gilman is the author of several well-received novels: Thunderer, Gears of the City, and The Half-Made World (which made my top ten list last year). His newest, The Rise of Ransom City, is a wonderfully unconventional follow-up to The Half-Made World (here's my review). He recently took some time to answer a few questions, including why he opted against writing a more typical sequel and what projects he is currently working on. You can find out more by visiting Felix Gilman's website. But really, what you should do is just go read his books. And if you'd like a chance to win a copy of The Rise of Ransom City, just leave a comment below.
Bill: One of the aspe... Read More