Tuesday, December 4, 2012

"The Rise Of Ransom City"

Felix Gilman is the author of the novels Thunderer, Gears of the City, and The Half Made World, which was one of Amazon's Top Ten SF/F novels for 2010, and was described by Ursula LeGuin as "gripping, imaginative [and] terrifically inventive ... we haven't had a science fiction novel like this for a long time."

Gilman applied the Page 69 Test to his most recent book, The Rise Of Ransom City, and reported the following:
From The Rise Of Ransom City, page 69:
Those handsome trees gave way to a third kind, something gnarled and ugly that Carver didn't name for me, our conversation having wandered onto other topics. Between the limbs of those trees there were spiderwebs, thick as cotton or the hair in an old man's ears. Then that scene too gave way. The road led us out from the trees and along the edge of a valley that opened out to the sunlit horizon. It was one of those sudden and always unexpected vistas of the Western Rim, that are like seeing the whole world at once.

"You know," I said, "the man who figures out a way to bottle and sell such a scene to the people back East will be twice as rich as Mr. Alfred Baxter on his best day."

"Could be," Carver said.

We were in the midst of this sort of repartee when he suddenly stiffened and cursed. He halted Golda with a tug on her reins and Mariette with a word. He walked to the edge of the road and he looked out over the valley.

I asked Carver what he saw and he did not answer me.

He walked to the back of the wagon and took the hatchet down from its hook. Ordinarily we used it for cutting firewood or clearing deadfalls from the road, or we used the blunt backside for striking the Apparatus when the cylinders jammed. Still it was quite fearsome the way he held it now.
I don't really remember writing most of this. Weird. I only just got the finished copies in a day or two ago and it's very strange to read it in this form. Lots of little things I want to change. Oh well.

Anyway, yes, I think that's sort of representative. Harry Ransom (our narrator) is on the road, with his horses and his wagon (containing the mysterious and wonderful Ransom Lightbringing Apparatus) and his taciturn assistant Mr. Carver. This is from before he gets famous, early-ish in the book, when he's still young and adventuresome and optimistic. Traveling the Western Rim, from town to town. (Rim of what? Well, the book is set in a world that's sort of reminiscent of our own in the 19th century, but emphatically isn't ours). Harry Ransom proposes a harebrained and half-ironic scheme to get rich by bottling light, which is similar in miniature to his actual big scheme, the reason why he's traveling about on the Western Rim... There's a mention of Mr. Alfred Baxter, the great businessman from Jasper City, who is Harry's hero and inspiration and will later be his - not nemesis exactly. Harry's tendency (he is a showman) to see the world in terms of scenes, of performances, is on display. There's sunlight and behind it some menace; Mr. Carver has spotted something horrible and frightening and sad. Harry still doesn't know what's really going on, which is true for quite a lot of the book.

Would people want to read on? I hope so. Seems like a pretty good random place to pick it up; hopefully people will at least want to know what Mr. Carver's spotted on the bottom of page 70.
Learn more about the book and author at Felix Gilman's website and Twitter perch.

Writers Read: Feliz Gilman.

--Marshal Zeringue