Marissa Lingen (mrissa) wrote,
Marissa Lingen

The Rise of Ransom City, by Felix Gilman

Review copy provided by Tor.

I talked about the first one of these when it came out two years ago. I almost don't even want to say "the first one of these," because The Rise of Ransom City felt so different from The Half-Made World to me, and yet this is not a case where you can hem and haw about whether something is really blah blah whatever: this has some of the same characters slightly later in their timeline. This really blah blah whatever.

The tone, the style, the entire approach--all are completely different. And frankly, they're more to my taste here. For those of you who didn't click for the link to The Half-Made World: I found it excessively grim in its interpersonal relationships. The Rise of Ransom City, on the other hand, makes it clear that the way approximately nobody in The Half-Made World liked each other was a facet of that book, not of the world. I mean, there's still plenty of grim! Don't get me wrong, the battle between the Gun and the Line in this twisted version of 19th century America is still not filled with happiness and fellow feeling for the rest of humanity! But this is a somewhat more removed battle, and the people the main character continues to have relationships with are...not by any means perfect. But sometimes quite important to him on a human level, and hurrah for that.

This is the second book I've read in the last bit that was taking the format of 19th century memoirs for a fantasy novel, the first being Marie Brennan's A Natural History of Dragons. The two are wildly divergent, since swan_tower was using a gentlewoman's travel memoir/natural historian model, particularly from a British Isles background, and Gilman is aiming more at the American West, a frontiersman sort of thing, but they have similar strengths in terms of letting protagonists filter and learn better. In the case of Gilman, there's almost more implied than told. The titular event does not appear on the page at all--which may frustrate some readers who might have liked to see it, but for those who have a horror of being obvious, having the story told in implication and with question marks remaining may be interesting and refreshing. Some questions from the previous work are answered, but more raised. Do you like that sort of thing? I like that sort of thing. I like middle books best of all. But it is not a universal taste, I get that. It's the main caveat I have here, though: if you don't like grim, if you don't like Weird West (even if it's not literally this world's West), and if you don't like memoir format/more questions raised than answered, then be wary of this book. If you do like those things or are willing to try them, I thought this had as clear a command of the material as The Half-Made World but was more accessible. I expect it probably would be even if you hadn't read The Half-Made World, although "who are these people and why are they important" will be answered at a different pace if that's the case.
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