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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books (April 1, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765337177
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765337177
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.4 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #388,942 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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 SF/F novels of 2010. He lives with his wife in New York City.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter One
It was the evening of what would later be called the Great Storm of ’93, and Arthur Archibald Shaw sat at his usual desk in the Reading Room of the British Museum, yawning and toying with his pen. Soft rain pattered on the dome. Lamps overhead shone through a haze of golden dust. Arthur yawned. There was a snorer at the desk opposite, head back and mouth open. Two women nearby whispered to each other in French. Carts creaked down the aisle, the faint tremors of their passing threatening to topple the tower of books on Arthur’s desk, which concerned explosives, and poisons, and exotic methods of murder.
He was writing a detective story. This was something of an experiment. Not knowing quite how to start, he’d begun at the end, which went:
That night the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral broke through London’s black clouds as if it were the white head of Leviathan rising from the ocean. The spire and the cross shone in a cold and quite un-Christian moonlight, and diabolical laughter echoed through the night. The detective and his quarry stood atop the dome, beneath the spire, each man ragged from the exertion of their chase.
“Stop there, Vane,” the detective called; but Professor Vane only laughed again, and began to climb the spire. And so Dr Syme pursued.
Which was not all bad, in Arthur’s opinion. The important thing was to move quickly. It was only that month that Dr Conan Doyle had sent his famous detective off into the great beyond—chucking him unceremoniously from a waterfall in Switzerland—and the news that there would be no more stories of the Baker Street genius had thrown London’s publishing world into something of a panic. In fact, there were nearly riots, and some disturbed individuals had threatened to torch the offices of the Strand Magazine. The hero’s death left a gap in the firmament. The fellow who was first to fill it might make a fortune. It was probably already too late.
For the past two and a half years Arthur had been employed by The Monthly Mammoth to write on the subject of the Very Latest Scientific Advances. He wasn’t any kind of scientist himself, but nobody seemed to mind. He wrote about dinosaurs, and steam engines, and rubber, and the laying of transatlantic telegraph cables; or how telephones worked; or the new American elevators at the Savoy; or whether there was air on the moon; or where precisely in South America to observe the perturbations of Venus; or whether the crooked lines astronomers saw on the fourth planet might be canals, or railroads, or other signs of civilization—and so on. Not a bad job, in its way—there were certainly worse—but the Mammoth paid little, and late, and there was no prospect of advancement there. Therefore he’d invented Dr Cephias Syme: detective, astronomer, mountain-climber, world-traveller, occasional swordsman, et cetera.
Vane dangled by one hand from the golden cross, laughing, his white hair blowing in the wind. With the other hand he produced a pistol from his coat and pointed it at Syme.
“What brought you here, Syme?”
The Professor appeared to expect an answer. Since Dr Syme saw no place to take shelter, he began to explain the whole story—the process by which, according to his usual method, he had tackled each part of Vane’s wild scheme—how he had ascended that mountain of horrors—from the poisoning at the Café de L’Europe, to the cipher in the newspaper advertisements that led to the uncovering of the anarchists in Deptford, which in turn led to the something or other by some means, and so on, and thus to the discovery of the bomb beneath Her Highness’s coach, and thus inevitably here, to the Cathedral.
Arthur sketched absent-mindedly on his blotting paper: a dome, a cross, inky scudding clouds.
The notion of the struggle on the dome had come to him in a dream, just two nights ago; it had impressed itself upon him with the intensity of a lightning flash. Unfortunately, all else remained dark. How did his detective get there? How precisely had they ascended the dome (was it possible?). And above all: what happened next?
Nothing, perhaps. In his dream, Dr Syme fell, toppling from the dome into black fog, nothing but hard London streets below. Not the best way to start a detective’s adventures. Something would have to be done about that. Perhaps he could have poor Syme solve his subsequent cases from the afterlife, through the aid of a medium.
Dr Syme lunged, knocking the pistol from the Professor’s grip, but his enemy swung away, laughing, and drew from his coat a new weapon: a watch.
“We have time,” the Professor said. “Dr Syme, I confess I have arranged events so that we might have time and solitude to speak. I have always felt that you, as a man of science, might see the urgent need for reform—for certain sacrifices to be made—”
Arthur’s neighbour began to pack his day’s writings into his briefcase. This fellow—name unknown—was stand-offish, thin, spectacled. Judging from the pile of books on his desk, on which words like clairvoyance and Osiris were among the most intelligible, his interests tended to the occult. He closed his briefcase, stood, swayed, then sat back with a thump and lowered his head to his desk. Arthur sympathised. The dread hour and its inexorable approach! Soon the warders would come around, waking up the sleepers, emptying out the room, driving Arthur, and Arthur’s neighbour, and the French women, and all the scholars and idlers alike out to face the night, and the rain, and the wind that rattled the glass overhead.
Midnight! The Professor waited, as if listening for some news to erupt from the befogged city below.
“Well,” Syme said. “I dare say I know your habits after all this time. I know how you like to do things in twos. I knew there would be a second bomb. At the nave, was it, or the altar? I expect Inspector Wright’s boys found it quick enough—”
A terrible change came across the Professor’s face. All trace of civilization vanished, and savagery took its place—or, rather, not savagery, but that pure malignancy that only the refined intellect is capable of.
Howling, the Professor let go of the cross and flung himself onto Dr Syme.
Pens scratching away. Rain drumming on the glass, loudly now. A row of women industriously translating Russian into English, or English into Sanskrit, Italian into French. Arthur’s neighbour appeared to have fallen asleep.
Arm in arm, locked together in deathly struggle, the two men fell—rolling down the side of the dome—toward
Toward what, indeed!
“By God,” said Inspector Wright, hearing the terrible crash. He came running out into the street, to see, side by side, dead, upon the ground—
Arthur put down his pen, and scratched thoughtfully at his beard.
His neighbour moaned slightly, as if something were causing him pain. Concerned, Arthur poked his shoulder.
The man jumped to his feet, staring about in wild-eyed confusion; then he snatched up his briefcase and left in such a hurry that scholars all along the rows of the Reading Room looked up and tut-tutted at him.
*   *   *
Rain sluiced noisily down the glass. Lamps swayed in mid-air. Thunder reverberated under the dome as the Reading Room emptied out.
Arthur’d thought he might try to bring out his friend Heath for dinner, or possibly Waugh, but neither was likely to venture out in that weather. Bad timing and bloody awful luck.
He collected his hat, coat, and umbrella. These items were just barely up to the Reading Room’s standards of respectability, and he doubted that they were equal to the challenge of the weather outside. Certainly the manuscript of Dr Syme’s First Case was not—he’d left it folded into the pages of a treatise on poisons.
Outside a small band of scholars, idlers, and policemen sheltered beneath the colonnade. Beyond the colossal white columns, the courtyard was dark and the rain swirled almost sideways. In amongst it were stones, mud, leaves, tiles, newspapers, and flower-pots. Some unfortunate fellow’s sandwich-board toppled end-over-end across the yard, caught flight, and vanished in the thrashing air. Arthur’s hat went after it. It was like nothing he’d ever seen. A tropical monsoon, or whirlwind, or some such thing.
He was suddenly quite unaccountably afraid. It was what one might call an animal instinct, or an intuition. Later—much later—the members of the Company of the Spheres would tell him that he was sensitive, and he’d think back to the night of the Great Storm and wonder if he’d sensed, even then, what was behind it. Perhaps. On the other hand, anyone can be spooked by lightning.
He was out past the gates, into the street, and leaning forward into the wind, homewards down Great Russell Street, before he’d quite noticed that he’d left the safety of the colonnade. When he turned back to get his bearings, the rain was so thick he could hardly see a thing. The Museum was a faint haze of light under a black dome; its columns were distant white giants, lumbering off into the sea. The familiar scene was rendered utterly alien; for all he could tell, he might not have been in London any more, but whisked away to the Moon.
His umbrella tore free of his grip and took flight. He watched it follow his hat away over the rooftops, flapping like some awful black pterodactyl between craggy, suddenly lightning-lit chimneys, then off who-knows-where across London.

Copyright © 2014 by Felix Gilman

Customer Reviews

What an astonishing work!
Amazon Customer
Finally, the end of the book really let me down, some characters were just not given the ends they deserved, and really became flat in the last 50 pages or so.
I just wish it had a better ending.
K. Hulse

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By London Fog on April 25, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Rarely have I read anything that opened so superbly as 'The Revolutions'. It was impressive with its fantastic, yet simultaneously authentic depictions of the Victorian fascination with all things occult, the peculiar events Arthur is thrust into, and the romance between him and Josephine which very much showcased what a strong grasp on characterization the author started off with. This book begins as serious historical fiction - with a steampunk twist - reminiscent of Dickens in many veins. The circumstances of the story itself may be off the beaten track, but the descriptions, events and players were so well drawn as to exceed my wildest expectations.

After the incident with Josephine, however, it devolved so rapidly, I had to convince myself I was not dreaming, and that the book had actually switched to a Martian setting, where we follow one of the characters who has become stranded on the Red Planet and sift through pages of exposition regarding her experiences therein. All the same, I would gladly have allotted this five stars - and then some - even after it began falling to pieces, as there were still plenty of scenes that made the read worthwhile, that gave glimpses of how outstanding a story it began as.

Alas, this was a truly excellent novel irrevocably ruined as it derailed further and further off of what it had been and devolved into something that had no place in this book, not after nearly two hundred pages of setting up the events taking place in London. It not only destroyed the atmosphere so grandiosely achieved, but made the character of Arthur seem inconsistent. The writing was captivating, the characters were fantastic; I had been completely drawn into this world only for the author himself to pluck me out of this wondrous version of London.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Amelia Gremelspacher TOP 500 REVIEWER on April 2, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The London Great Storm of 1893 has brought "a gret disruption among the Spheres". Felix Gilman's previous works are marked by his exquisite ability to build worlds that submerge the reader in alternative reality. This book is no different, but it happens to be set in an alternate London. This book is literate, witty, and ever so slightly funky. It is full of the the esoteric manipulations and observations of the revolution of the spheres. The spheres are the planets as we know them, but are in fact perfect balls of aether in this philosophy. Little details all fit together rather brilliantly, and the prose is a delight to the mental ear.

Arthur is a refreshingly overweight young man who has rather found himself at a point of general failure on the night of the Great Storm. He tells himself he simply fancies his sense of a greater shift as he sits in his chair in the National Library. As he walks home, he blunders into a familiar store and meets Josephine, the love of his life. Josephine types manuscripts for the esoteric members of London society. At a seance, they both meet the slightly sinister Atwood who sweeps them both into the search for the Spheres.

Somehow Gilman transfers the most mundane setting into fantasy. Arthur s hired to do endless operations in tiny print which then are to be transcribed into the Machine. The Machine feels like the attempts at a precursor of a computer, but it is nothing so plain. The scene of the job is rendered into a steam punk dream with mysterious co- workers, odd gears and crushing mental loads that appear from seemingly nowhere. Elsewhere, Josephine is lost to this world in a trip of astral projection, but this one is not like anything I have read in fiction to this point.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By ts on April 14, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Reminds me of Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norell by Stephanie Clarke. Weird and interesting. Would make a good movie. The only slight issue I have with the book is that the ending is slightly abrupt and doesn't tie up a couple loose ends, but that's life. We don't always end up with all the answers we seek, and that's kind of what this book is about.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ryan Thompson on May 4, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Felix Gilman quickly became an author whose work I would read no matter the plot or characters, and The Revolutions doesn't question that decision. It's different from his other books, which goes to show he has a lot of versatility. I would recommend it to anyone.
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By Cygnet on September 10, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Review of The Revolutions by Felix Gilman

This book comes across in colors of dusky red, black, tawny, and gray, much as the planet Mars is portrayed therein. The cast of characters is fairly long and, especially at first, after one is well acquainted with Arthur and Josephine, difficult to keep straight. Ultimately, the story never quite seems to settle down. New characters are introduced at every turn of the clock, some to stay, and some to disappear as quickly as they came.

The story begins in London during the last decade of the 18th century. Arthur is a mild-mannered journalist of questionable will power. Josephine is a strong-minded stenographer. They meet by chance(?) during the Storm of the Century 1893. Both become involved with a small, mysterious, occult assemblage whose purported goal is to travel through the “aether” to Mars. At the same time, Arthur takes a job with Mr. Gracewell, whose mysterious Engine, using hundreds or thousands of man hours, speeds to accomplish the enigmatic Work.

Events unfold in great detail, primarily concerning Josephine and Arthur, but also the many other characters. Just as the two protagonists don’t know what’s going on, the reader also wanders around in the dark, attempting to discern the main thread of the tale. When the object of reaching Mars is achieved, things become even foggier (this time with red Martian dust).

Gilman’s writing style seems to mimic the style of fiction produced in the 1890s, which in and of itself is not hard to follow. The narrative, however, seems to jump around and the plot rather becomes a multi-tentacled monster in the end. After great detailed expositions of the plot, the whole thing is summed up in a few sentences and a brief epilogue for Mr.
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