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The Rise of Ransom City Hardcover – Nov 27 2012

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Hardcover, Nov 27 2012
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books (Nov. 27 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765329409
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765329400
  • Product Dimensions: 16.4 x 3.3 x 24.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 567 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #335,634 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"A rollicking good read."
"[A] fascinating cast of moles and double agents, whistle-blowers and politicians. For the ambience of the closed world that inspired James Bond and George Smiley, this book is a winner."
--Publishers Weekly
"[In] his rollicking, readable new history of Britain's famous spy organizations...Thomas builds one fast-paced anecdote upon another, often yielding surprising insights."
--Los Angeles Times
"Authoritative history of Britain’s spy services by a veteran who has been writing about “the Great Game” for 50 years [and a] well-written page-turner that demystifies the notoriously foggy “wilderness of mirrors.”"
--Kirkus Reviews 
"Thomas brings to the agencies' histories a high level of expertise, a fluent style accessible to lay reader and expert alike, and a combination of frankness and balance about some of his subjects' less glorious chapters."
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

FELIX GILMAN has been nominated for the John W. Campbell award and the Locus Award for best new writer.  He is the author of the critically acclaimed Thunderer, Gears of the City, and The Half-Made World, which was listed by Amazon as one of the ten best SFF novels of 2010. He lives with his wife in New York City.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 25 reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Defies categorization (4.5 stars) Nov. 27 2012
By TChris - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Harry Ransom made a brief appearance in The Half-Made World, as did his light-making apparatus. In the follow-up to that novel, Ransom's goal is to build the city of the future, with parks and tall buildings, where freedom and democracy reign. The Rise of Ransom City, Ransom's autobiography, recounts his travels and exploits, his successes and (more often) failures. As you would expect, the stories told in this novel and in The Half-Made World overlap, but only slightly.

The Great War between the Line and the Gun has been ongoing for two decades when Ransom sets out to make his fortune. Agents of the Line serve the Engines and know the secret of electricity -- an expensive secret monopolized by the Northern Lighting Corporation -- but Ransom has created an Apparatus that produces light without cost, based on ideas he acquired (or stole) from the First Folk. He calls it the Ransom Process, and it is a work in progress that he doesn't fully understand. The Ransom Process creates heat and light and magnetism but it also has unpredictable (and sometimes violent) impacts on time and gravity. In its later versions, it seems to attract phantoms.

In search of investors, Ransom travels with his mechanic (the secretive Mr. Carver) and, along the way, picks up two fellow travelers who introduce themselves as Elizabeth Harper and her father. We eventually learn that these characters are not who they appear to be. Ransom later meets a feisty woman named Adela who invented the player piano. Ransom's journey brings him into contact with both the Line and the Gun, as both forces (and others) would love to weaponize the Ransom Process.

The Rise of Ransom City is an odd but intriguing novel. I appreciated the relative absence of expository writing. It might not appeal to readers who need to be spoon-fed but I think it's refreshing to find a writer who doesn't feel the need to explain every detail of the world the writer has created. Felix Gilman thrusts the reader into the world as Ransom knows it. Ransom, writing his autobiography in the first person, assumes the reader lives in that world and therefore doesn't bother to explain much about it. The reader is left to puzzle out the background, a task that becomes possible as more information comes to light over the course of the novel. In that regard, having read The Half-Made World would be useful but not critical. The sequel stands nicely on its own.

The Rise of Ransom City incorporates a large dose of fantasy (or at least creates a world where the laws of physics as we understand them are a bit cockeyed) and a little bit of horror. There are echoes of post-apocalyptic fiction and of alternate histories. There are elements of steampunk and of westerns. The Rise of Ransom City is at various times an adventure story, a road novel, a romance, a political thriller, a comedy, a melodrama, and a twisted version of a rags-to-riches story. The novel's defiance of categorization is one of its most attractive features.

The book's success is largely due to the richness of Harry Ransom's personality. Part inventor, part philosopher, part con-artist, part adventurer, part dreamer, part schemer, Ransom is at times full of himself and at other times full of remorse. Often cowardly but occasionally brave, often confused but occasionally seized by a clarity of purpose, Ransom is engaging because, despite his all-too-common flaws, he is a good-hearted idealist who struggles (albeit with little success) to make the world better. His complexity is a welcome relief from the one-dimensional heroes who populate so many science fiction and fantasy novels.

Felix Gilman is an imaginative writer and a first-rate storyteller. In this wide-ranging story, Gilman pokes fun at religion by inventing one of his own (the Smilers), lambasts business tycoons, skewers the inclination of the judicial system to protect the powerful, and metaphorically comments upon Guantanamo-style interrogations. I'm not a fan of demons and spirits and supernatural characters of that sort, so I am happy to report that they play a relatively small role in the story (and the phantoms, at least, can be explained without relying on the supernatural). Ultimately, this enigmatic novel worked for me not just because the story is entertaining, but because it focuses on flesh-and-blood humans, with all their flaws, foibles, inconsistencies, and uncontrolled emotions. If I could, I would give The Rise of Ransom City 4 1/2 stars.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Harry Ransom is no John Creedmoor Oct. 17 2013
By sean - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Half-Made World, the book that Ransom City is a sort of indirect sequel to, is excellent. Gripping action, great characters, nice vivid writing style. I enjoyed that book a great deal, so getting this one was sort of a no-brainer.

It turns out this book is rather tedious. Honestly, I wanted to like it, but it's just not that much fun. The first book (The Half-Made World) gave a great over-the-shoulder look at the world from Creedmoor's point of view, the whole curse/gift thing about fighting on the side of the Gun, and also mixed in bits of Liv's and one of the Linesman's experiences of the world and really fleshed out the world in a vivid way (and it's a pretty strange -in a good way- world...). It also stuck with characters who had a good view of the action.

This book, on the other hand, gives you a first-person journal/diary telling of what is probably a good story, but the narrator doesn't see most of the good parts. If you haven't yet, go read Half-Made World, and skip this one.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Stylish sequel Aug. 26 2013
By inner exile - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
although I think it's less effective as a stand-alone novel if you have missed the background context provided in The Half-Made World. Not unlike other readers, I'm also a bit disappointed that good ole Creedmoor - albeit a shadow of his former self being bereft of Marmion's power - and Miss Alverhuysen (sounds a Dutch name to me in the real world) together make only an episodic appearance, roughly a year after where the story concluded in the first book.
What we've got here instead is a steady paced, occasionally quaint, (mock-)memoir in which self-taught inventor and utopian Harry Ransom relates how his life-long aspiration to make a better world, preferably alongside fortune & fame, through the application of a free energy device has played out, while traveling from town to town on the Rim separating the made and unmade worlds, then ending up in booming Jasper City in pursuit of the initially lionized self-made man, investor Mr Baxter.
In the wake of an ill-fated demonstration of his Apparatus' working and resultant mayhem generating unsolicited rumours, the Ransom Process - mistaken, not without some basis, for a weapon or bomb of some sort - draws the unwelcome attention of both the Line and the Gun: "It operates by cycling power between one world and another - one time and another - one state of being and another - it drags some things with it" (p. 343).
Find out if he is able to evade his pursuers and realize his dream, or the unrelenting forces of War eventually destroy him as well.

Except for the last four chapters (pp. 321-63) assuming a grimmer tone befitting the oppressive hive-like milieau of the Line HQ at Harrow Cross, charming irony is also detectable here and there in the fluid prose. For instance, speaking of the editor of the memoir, one journalist named Elmer Merrial Carson's impressive eyebrows: "Throughout our conversation they bristled and flattened as he spoke so that they could express good humor at one moment, curiosity the next, fulminating wrath when necessary. Sometimes I felt I was conversing with the eyebrows and he was merely taking notes" (p. 193). To which the gentleman so depicted laconically remarks in a footnote: "Worse things have been said" (p. 200).
As the talented storyteller that Gilman is, elsewhere he exhibits a keen sense of being fully aware of his rapt audience: "It is very strange this business of turning flesh-and-blood people into words" (p. 28), or "No yarn of world's-edge adventure and daring is complete without wolves. If I ever got this far into a story-book without wolves I would demand my money back" (p. 91) - and accordingly, the reader gets exposed to a ferocious attack of lupi.

Given the limits of the memoir, that is the absence of an omnipresent narrator, we are offered only glimpses of brief recollection of other events - citing hearsay of Creedmoor's or Miss Alverhuysen's involvement - taking place in the Delta baronies, Juniper City, the revival of the Red Republic, etc., all of which may serve as a synopsis to be elaborated, hopefully, in the third installment of this steampunkish weird western saga of alternative America. You may also notice veiled references to what is uncannily pervasive in our real world, namely the bankster-military-industrial cabal/triumvirate or the mindless arms race.

One Laura Miller, staff writer for <Salon>, may well have captured the underlying message in her assessment, thusly: "It's possible to see [the novel] as a rumination on the hubris of the American Dream, if by "dream" you mean a form of individualism that holds it possible for a man to be all three things - rich, grand and free - at the same time...a diagnosis of the American character as alternately possessed by ruthless utilitarianism and nihilistic self-aggrandizement..." (quoted at the author's website)
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Gilman is a frustratingly fantastic author. Feb. 11 2013
By StrawScareCrow - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book was great. It expands on Gilman's 'Half Made World' in ways that were both fresh and familiar.

The narration within the narration could have been left out but it worked. When I think of the main character, Harry Ransom, the one word bubbles to the surface: plucky. No matter how badly things go for him, he always dusts himself off and goes on. His story is entertaining. His narration maintains an even keel regardless of the gravity of the events around him. He unintentionally becomes a third player to The Gun & The Line conflict.

The Gun and The Line. That's what I wanted this book to be about. I kept wanting Ransom to get out of the way so I could take a look deeper look into the mythology Gilman has been constructing around these two forces. Any time an 'Agent of the Gun' was even mentioned, I'd start mentally salivating. When I turned to the chapter 'The Wounded Engine', it felt like Christmas eve. You know you're getting a gift and savoring that anticipation can be so sweet, but damn it you still want whatever's in the box!

I hope Gilman continues explore the frontier he has created.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Doesn't quite do justice to its predecessor Dec 21 2012
By E. Smiley - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The Rise of Ransom City is a sequel to The Half-Made World.... sort of. Where the first book was a quest story with worldwide implications, following three main characters, this one is written as the memoir of Harry Ransom, an inventor who appeared only briefly in the prior novel. It's still a decent book, and the second half is much better than the first, but it didn't grab me and excite me the way the first one did.

The first 185 pages of this book relate Harry's childhood and his travels around the West, and I honestly found it a slog and thought of giving up more than once. Like too many fantasy sequels, it lapses into a tedious travelogue, its protagonist hiking about with no particular end in mind. Meanwhile, readers have no prior investment in Harry, whose role in world events during the first half of the book is at best peripheral. While he's rather amusing, he's not quite interesting enough to make up for having lost our previous main characters and storyline. Liv and Creedmoor do play a small role here, as seen through Harry's eyes, but they're understandably reticent with him and so we see almost nothing of their adventures.

Fortunately, the book does pick up in the second half: Harry stops traveling and becomes involved in world events, and I was engaged and interested again. Even the world seems more alive in the latter part of the book, and some interesting secondary characters step up to play important roles. Gilman displays his writing talent quite effectively, for instance, in a chapter that consists entirely of unattributed dialogue with 5 or 6 people present--and yet the reader can understand who is speaking and what's going on without trouble. And, to give credit where credit is due: I criticized the first book for only having one female character of any importance, but in this installment there are several and they're quite interesting.

Looking back on the whole work, then, it's more than competently written and the world is still interesting, but the choice of Harry as narrator is questionable. Not only is it difficult to switch from the movers and shakers to a relatively minor character partway through a story, but Harry's voice never quite seems to match his personality. He is supposed to be fast-talking and pompous, but comes across as rather too self-aware and regretful, almost ingenuous, as if the author was struggling to adopt his voice.

Overall, this one is worth reading if you liked the first book and are willing to push through the first half (or if you actually enjoy fantasy travelogues). For me, though, while it has its moments, it does not live up to the promise of The Half-Made World.