The Rise of Ransom City – Felix Gilman

About the Book

This is the story 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.

368 pages (hardcover)
Published on November 27, 2012
Published by Tor
Author’s webpage

This book was sent for me to review by the publisher.

You can purchase a copy of this book by clicking on the following links: The Rise of Ransom City, The Rise of Ransom City – Kindle


Here’s the deal. The Half-Made World rocked. I loved it. I remember it fondly and I fairly devoured it. I had a very hard time putting it down. Therefore, I turned very anticipatory eyes toward The Rise of Ransom City and find myself not really let down, but not as thrilled as The Half-Made World made me feel, either.

The first thing readers will notice is a change in perspective. A dramatic one. The Rise of Ransom City is an autobiographical tale told from the perspective of one Harry Ransom, who is trotting all over the place trying to reach fame and fortune with his apparatus, which is some sort of device that creates light. While Harry is an interesting fellow, he’s not who I wanted to hear about.

Ransom goes on many interesting adventures and runs into some fascinating characters, not the least of whom are the two you are wondering about most from the previous book – Liv and Creedmoor, who he runs into occasionally but not nearly often enough. In fact, I felt as though that’s where the book suffered most. I wanted more of Liv and Creedmoor. I wanted to see the end of the story from their eyes and I never really got to. They were shadowy, enigmatic figures that never really seemed to reach the front burner, where they belonged.

Ransom himself is quite a character. He has no opinions on politics, and because of that the reader really never learns much about the war, or the driving forces behind whatever is happening in whichever town he finds himself in. That’s actually kind of nice. It allows the reader to see the world as Ransom sees it, and he has a certain innocent quality that I really enjoyed. He also traveled nearly constantly and had a knack for finding himself in odd situations with interesting people. This worked well to expand my knowledge and understanding of life in this world, especially life on the Rim, where he did most of his traveling.

That being said, Ransom is a rather hard person to warm up to, as for the first part of the novel he comes across as being rather self-serving as most of his travels are to find investors for his wonderful invention. However, he runs into trouble and he also meets people on the road with their own secrets. Occasionally, Gilman lets the reader get a glimpse into the more subtle workings of Ransom, a rather dreamy idealist who likes to tinker and doesn’t mind being alone with his thoughts. These more subtle moments, like when Ransom rescues part of a piano off of a sinking boat, say more about Ransom as a character than almost anything else he puts into his autobiography.

Gilman really does some things quite well. For example, The Rise of Ransom City is actually a quite complex novel. He combines fantasy, steampunk and some quite long and evolved wars deftly. Everything seems to fit into his world perfectly and the perspective of Ransom adds some great new insight into everything Gilman created with this duology. That being said, it’s hard to figure out how to classify this novel, and the series in general. It’s not quite fantasy, not quite steampunk and not quite… whatever else. Usually novels that aren’t quite that many things seem to struggle to find their footing but Gilman never does. He’s sure of himself, and confidant from the start. While some readers might struggle with the autobiographical point of view, Gilman’s wonderful expansion of the world and the various social dynamics in it are sure to please.

While I did lament the fact that Liv and Creedmoor didn’t have more time in the limelight, and I did miss their perspectives, I did end up growing rather fond of Ransom and his odd ideas and ideals as the novel progressed. It might take readers some time to warm up to the fellow, but it is worth it. Gilman manages to make The Rise of Ransom City a complex, engaging and unique grand finale to his wonderful series.


4/5 stars

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