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 tells us his story, with varying levels of candor, through letters penned to various people, and he proves to be an endearing character. He is an idealist making the best of a bad world in the belief that it can only be made better. I definitely felt that Lightbringers and Rainmakers got better as it progressed, but it still pales in comparison to Gilman’s novel set in the same world… understandable given the short length of this novelette. I think I was hoping for a bit more from this story, either an unexpected twist or perhaps a wider range of characters/situations to give a broader overview of the people of the unmade West, but it was still an enjoyable excursion back to the Half-Made world.