The Rise of Ransom City
by Felix Gilman
Tor, $15.99, 368 pp
Publication Date: August 13, 2013
This sequel to The Half Made World is an alternative-history Western circa 1890s, when the Line and the Gun are the rival and warring powers of so-called North American civilization, and the Rim is the border that tapers off into the unclaimed - but not unpeopled - Wild. It is also a narrative tour-de-force, describing the adventures of one Harry Ransom, a man born for trouble.
Harry is the gonzo journalist of his time, Hunter S. Thompson crossed with Robert Heinlein, or maybe Mark Twain. He is something of a confidence man, an inventor and visionary and pioneer, sometimes an agent provocateur, always a maverick, and a living flashpoint for every kind of adventure. This is his narrative, his story, or at least the first part of it, from his childhood in a mining town through his decision to set out with an astonishing variety of folk in the hope of founding a free city in the west.
Harry’s account of himself, his travels, and the four times he held history in his hands reveals a personality that cannot stay frightened for long, no matter what, because curiosity seems to cast out fear. Which is not to say there aren’t times when he, too, is compelled by fear or by love held hostage, but eventually his wits reassert themselves. He may not hold all the strings, but he certainly manages to twist them into interesting configurations.
If you like clever protagonists and 100 proof humor, this is a book for you. ~~ Chris R. Paige
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