Today for “Readers Write.,” I’m welcoming guest reviewer Becky from the great No More Grumpy Bookseller blog, who’s sharing a review of Rise of Ransom City, the followup to Felix Gilman’s steampunk (or Weird West) debut The Half-Made World, which I reviewed last year as the first the Line and the Gun series.
Read on for Becky’s review and a chance to win this book or the first in the series.
ABOUT THE RISE OF RANSOM CITY: This is the story of Harry Ransom. If you know his name it’s most likely as the inventor of the Ransom Process, a stroke of genius that changed the world. Or you may have read about how he lost the battle of Jasper City, or won it, depending on where you stand in matters of politics….Friends called him Hal or Harry, or by one of a half-dozen aliases, of which he had more than any honest man should. He often went by Professor Harry Ransom, and though he never had anything you might call a formal education, he definitely earned it….If you’re reading this in the future, Ransom City must be a great and glittering metropolis by now, with a big bronze statue of Harry Ransom in a park somewhere. You might be standing on its sidewalk and not wonder in the least of how it grew to its current glory. Well, here is its story, full of adventure and intrigue. And it all starts with the day that old Harry Ransom crossed paths with Liv Alverhyusen and John Creedmoor, two fugitives running from the Line, amidst a war with no end.
Review by Becky of No More Grumpy Bookseller:
A Scene I’d Read Twice:
In the chapter entitled “The Showdown,” Ransom and his companions have made their way to a town called White Rock. They’ve learned that an agent of the Gun is on their trail and they’re all certain they’ll see their end here. But the show must go on. Ransom has geared up his invention just outside of town while Knoll, the agent, has begun his attack. It’s at the end of this chapter that we finally see the true potential of Ransom’s Apparatus. The violent attack and the subsequent partings (no spoilers) as well as Ransom’s reactions are so realistically drawn. The scene was incredibly intense and left me a bit heartbroken.
I Didn’t Quite Buy:
Honestly there wasn’t much that I didn’t buy in this book. Presenting the story as an autobiography made it much easier to swallow. Gilman’s style in telling Ransom’s tale isn’t overly melodramatic or emotional. In fact, it’s quite humorous. The only thing I questioned was why Ransom waited so long to escape after Jasper City. But if he’d left earlier, there would have been less story to tell!
The setting is not unlike our own world at the end of the 1800s. The geography and the pattern of settlement is very similar to ours in that time period, but there’s magic in Gilman’s world. The Folk seem to be a sort of Fae entity with symbols and language that bring about surreal results. Then there’s the Line and the Gun: two warring factions with their own sort of supernatural abilities. The Linesmen are connected to trains. The Engines themselves run things – they have personalities and powers. The agents of the Gun on the other hand cannot be killed. They draw their power from their weapons, which in turn are controlled by a group of masters housed at the Lodge. It really is a cleverly created setting somewhat grounded in a known but twisted reality.
Harry Ransom is, of course, the lead here. The story is told through his words and all of the characters are presented through his own “portraits” that are scattered throughout the book. He’s smart and stubborn as well as driven: his only goal is for people to remember him. Through his travels he collects a number of companions and a number of enemies. Mr. Carver is his steadfast partner through the first portion of the book. Liv and Creedmore cross his path as well, though their story is the focus of Gilman’s previous book The Half-Made World. Then there are the folks Ransom meets in Jasper city: Adela, who drives much of the end of the story; Elmer Merrial Carson, the reporter who has “compiled” Ransom’s writings; and the elusive Alfred Baxter, the man Ransom has looked up to since he was a child.
The Rise of Ransom City is an excellent melding of genres. There’s fantasy and action, strong steampunk elements, and a western-like setting. Technically a follow up (in terms of release) to The Half-Made World, The Rise of Ransom City is more a parallel companion than a sequel and can stand alone for any readers who have yet to read its predecessor.
Thanks, Becky! I really liked The Half-Made World, and am looking forward to reading this one. Good to know that someone could read this without having read the first one and have it make sense, though.
For Readers Write Giveaways: commenters on each review and guest post get an entry into a weekly Readers Write pool. At the end of the week, good old random.org will pick one to win his or her choice of the books in the Readers Write pool (or the first book in a series if a later series book is reviewed). Or one of the titles from the Book Horde (tab at the top of the page).
Interested in doing a guest review for Preternatura and telling us about a book you love? Email me and let me know. Reviews should be in a speculative fiction genre, and will include a link back to your website or blog.