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Thunderer Hardcover – December 26, 2007

22 customer reviews
Book 1 of 2 in the Thunderer Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Scattershot plotting and puzzling theology notwithstanding, there's much to like in Gilman's first novel, fantasy set in the ever-shifting city of Ararat. Once a gifted composer in the distant city of Gad, Arjun has come to Ararat seeking the intangible Voice. Instead, he finds a city filled with other gods, streets that resist being mapped and citizens touched in varying ways by the passing of the mysterious Bird. Gilman's literary antecedents are intriguingly diverse. Ararat itself fuses elements of Renaissance Venice and Victor Hugo's Paris. Arjun's search leads at times into gaslight-era SF à la Jules Verne, at others into distinctly Poe-like horror, while a secondary plot transforms street youth Jack into a hybrid of Peter Pan and Dickens's Artful Dodger. Impressively, the whole remains essentially coherent, though just how and why Ararat's gods behave as they do is unclear, and parts of the convoluted climax rely too heavily on underexplained aspects of the city's nature. Nonetheless, strongly conveyed atmosphere and intriguing characters make this a distinctive debut. (Dec.)
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"Gilman takes his readers on a journey through a world of deep and wondrous impossibilities where marvels lurk around every corner. His infinite city and the lives of its people quickly become an irresistible compulsion— I imagine an evening where Dickens, Miyazaki, and Jules Verne sat down to dream up a metropolis and its wrangling multitudes. Thunderer will leave you wide eyed, breathless and hoping for more."—David Keck, author of In the Eye of Heaven

“Memorably inventive, with intriguing characters ... impressive.”—Kirkus Reviews

"Gilman is far above average for a first novelist."—Booklist

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Spectra; 1St Edition edition (December 26, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553806769
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553806762
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,848,601 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By booksforabuck VINE VOICE on March 5, 2008
Format: Hardcover
When the god he worships, Voice, vanishes from Gad, Arjun comes up with the idea of searching for Voice in the great city, Ararat. In Ararat, gods are abundant and it would be easy, he reasons, to for one more god to lose his way in that city. After traveling for months, he arrives in time to see evidence of those gods--a huge flame that continually lights the city, and a bird flying overhead that showers its powers down on the inhabitants of Ararat, temporarily gifting a few of them with the ability to fly.

Jack Sheppard has waited for the arrival of the bird and uses its passage to speed his own escape from a workhouse. Once free, he joins up with a group of other feral children and schemes to free more. Ararat teems with workhouses and prisons, and Jack embarks on a quest to free everyone. While the power the bird gave most of Ararat fades, in Jack, it seems to grow.

Scientist Holbach has predicted the return of the bird and convinced one of the city's nobles, the Countess Ilona, to invest in a balloon that will, Holbach believes, permanently capture a bit of the bird's power that would otherwise disperse into nothing. The experiment is a success, but at a cost, and the balloon, named Thunderer, becomes a part of the Countess's arsenal. While Holbach dreamed of using it to continue his vast survey and Atlas of the seemingly limitless city, the Countess plans it to be a weapon, allowing her to threaten her rivals without fear of retribution.

Author Felix Gilman shows huge promise in a fascinating and complex world where gods walk the streets, continually transforming the city behind them, where a few humans seem to have abilities that defy explanation, and where disease and corruption never lies far beneath the surface.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Carrie on January 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Yes, someone gave this book a bad review, but don't listen to him -- he's someone who apparently doesn't know the difference between "bazaar" and "bizarre". This book is a delight, and the author is both a good storyteller and a good writer.

I completely disagree with the previous reviewer's critique that the book has no character or plot development; I found the characters to have both depth and charm (and yes, they do learn and grow and change during the course of their travels), and the plot is creatively based upon what happens to the these characters as they seek to find, follow, trap, defy, profit from, or divine the patterns of the many gods within the seemingly infinite city of Ararat. This city is NOT, as the critical reviewer has written, "devoid of cause and effect and logic," but instead is vividly written and fascinating. The gods of Ararat regularly remake its streets in the wake of their passing, and the citizens who believe in these gods (and who among them would dare NOT believe, when their presence is so frequently seen and felt) range from the blasé to the devout to the fanatical.

The summaries of this book focus on the naive traveler Arjun and his search for the Voice, but there is also another main character, Jack (it's not too much of a spoiler to say that he's the one featured on the cover, is it?), a boy of the streets whose own search is equally engaging. Indeed, they are contending with forces greater than themselves, yet they have their own skills and wisdom to draw upon as they make their stand.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Alexander Gray on January 27, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This novel took a little bit to get it's engine going, but I found it excellent. There are three main characters. The first two are Jack and Arjun and the plot follows the two of them in their separate stories until they intersect. The last is the city, an area that is as much theological as geographical. The city rearranges itself and is infested by gods that are unknowable but impossible to ignore. The book lags at the beginning because the author has to layer on plots and characters and background to let the readers ( and the characters) discover how the city really works.
A satisfying chew.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By B. Thomas-Moore on December 31, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Horror fantasy is an close description, but it's not so much that as quixotic; all of Gilman's characters are attempting to contend with forces far beyond their control, their intertwining goals shifting like the city itself as the gods pass them by. Their reach exceeds their grasp, but that's what makes them so intriguing to read about.

As for the city itself - for those familiar with the Planescape setting, imagine the Cage without the Lady of Pain, at the mercy of, and reshaped by, any power or demiurge that passes through its portals. The citizens live in shifting districts, ruled by this or that noble house, often claimed by several at once, and all the time hoping for and dreading the touch of the gods who might change anything.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on December 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Arjun the composer leaves his home city Gad on a quest to find the intangible Voice. His journey takes him to the strange city of Ararat where streets change location and direction seemingly on a whim. He finds the place loaded with Gods, who enjoy making the city in their image. Then there is the enigmatic Bird who apparently has powerful influence on the townsfolk and Arjun wonders if the Gods do too.

As Arjun struggles to adjust to the ever changing environs, he continues his search for the Voice. He also ponders why so many Gods reside here and whether they compete to shape the landscape and the people in their image of the moment.

Readers who appreciate something radically different will want to peruse this complex horror fantasy as we accompany Arjun on his quest inside a city in which the visit yesterday to a locale might have been Renaissance Italy but today is late nineteenth century San Francisco and tomorrow only the Gods know. Try being Mapquest providing direction under those ever changing conditions. The convoluted story line never explains why the Gods constantly perform urban renewal; still Arjun and the audience get a first hand look at a theological system in which apparently the Gods Must be Crazy.

Harriet Klausner
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