Thunderer: “More, more!”

Felix Gilman 1. Thunderer 2. Gears of the CityFelix Gilman Thunderer fantasy book reviewThunderer 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 city has called to the god, who has become lost there. He has come to Ararat to seek the god. In the course of his search, Arjun incurs the wrath of another god, the interest of a group of philosophers, and, ultimately, some secrets left largely unexplored here.

A parallel plot involves Jack, a boy trapped in a particularly brutal workhouse until a god and his own cleverness work his release. His freedom fires his blood with a wish for the freedom of others, and he begins a crusade that threatens to swallow the city. When he joins forces with Arjun and the philosophers to rescue their leaders, Ararat itself seems to tremble on its foundations.

Ararat is too wonderful a place to be contained in a single book, which makes me happy that Gilman wrote Gears of the City as a follow-up. Thunderer explores a very small portion of the city, little of its politics, and almost nothing at all of the great mountain at its border. Gilman succeeds at an author’s most difficult trick: causing the reader to cry, “More, more!”


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TERRY WEYNA is spending the second half of her life as a reviewer, critic, scholar and writer, after having spent the first half practicing law in a variety of states and settings. (She still does legal research and writing for a law firm in California). Terry lives in Northern California with her husband, professor and writer Fred White, the imperious Cordelia Louise Cat Weyna-White, and a personal library that exceeds 12,000 volumes.

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5 comments

  1. This sounds interesting and the nice cover illustration doesn’t hurt. Great review!

  2. Great book, and a great review! Terry, I’d be interested to know what you made of The Half-Made World.

  3. I went looking for it yesterday, but it appears to be out of print — ludicrous prices are being asked for used copies over here. Is it due to be reprinted?

  4. I see an $18.95 version in hardcover at Amazon. It seems to be a third-party source, but it’s eligible for free shipping through Amazon. (If you click through from FanLit, we get a small percentage of the sale price which helps cover the cost of our operation. No extra cost to you.)

    Or, check Alibris or Paperback Swap. Those are good options for out of print books.

  5. I’ve yet to read THE HALF-MADE WORLD, though I did read THE GEARS OF THE CITY — the follow-up to THUNDERER, set in the same world — and didn’t like it nearly as much as I liked THUNDERER. I guess that’s why I’ve been so reluctant to pick up THE HALF-MADE WORLD.

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