Read Thunderer by Felix Gilman Online


In this breathtaking debut novel by Felix Gilman, one man embarks on a thrilling and treacherous quest for his people’s lost god—in an elaborate Dickensian city that is either blessed …or haunted. Arjun arrives in Ararat just as a magnificent winged creature swoops and sails over the city. For it is the day of the return of that long-awaited, unpredictable mystical creatuIn this breathtaking debut novel by Felix Gilman, one man embarks on a thrilling and treacherous quest for his people’s lost god—in an elaborate Dickensian city that is either blessed …or haunted. Arjun arrives in Ararat just as a magnificent winged creature swoops and sails over the city. For it is the day of the return of that long-awaited, unpredictable mystical creature: the great Bird. But does it come for good or ill? And in the service of what god? Whatever its purpose, for one inhabitant the Bird sparks a long-dormant idea: to map the mapless city and liberate its masses with the power of knowledge.As the creature soars across the land, shifting topography, changing the course of the river, and redrawing the territories of the city’s avian life, crowds cheer and guns salute in a mix of science and worship. Then comes the time for the Bird’s power to be trapped—within the hull of a floating warship called Thunderer, an astounding and unprecedented weapon. The ship is now a living temple to the Bird, a gift to be used, allegedly, in the interests of all of Ararat. Hurtled into this convulsing world is Arjun, an innocent who will unwittingly unleash a dark power beyond his imagining—and become entangled in a dangerous underground movement that will forever transform Ararat. As havoc overtakes the streets, Arjun dares to test the city’s moving boundaries. In this city of gods, he has come to search among them, not to hide. A tour de force of the imagination, and a brilliant tale of rebellion, Thunderer heralds the arrival of a truly gifted fantasy writer who has created a tale as rich, wondrous, and captivating as the world in which it is set.From the Hardcover edition....

Title : Thunderer
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780553806762
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 448 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Thunderer Reviews

  • Terry
    2019-07-10 18:25

    If it hadn’t already been appropriated by novels about punk-rock elves and brazen private eyes that have sex with werewolves then “Urban Fantasy” would be a perfect designation for Felix Gilman’s debut novel _Thunderer_. Of course this type of story isn’t new. Writers have been examining the rot and corruption (as well as the fascination and glory) they see at the heart of our urban civilization at least since the days of Rome, the great archetype of the City in western culture. The conflict between the mob and the establishment seems to have been present from the beginning, a continual war and contention for rulership of the people and places that make up our urban centres. This isn’t new in the realm of genre fantasy either, from Brian Aldiss’ The Malacia Tapestry, to more recent works by the likes of Mieville and VanderMeer, the city and its constant dance between progress and corruption have been a favourite subject. I was already a fan of Gilman’s prior to reading this, but _Thunderer_ really impressed me given that it was the first novel he had published. His writing style, as I noted in my review of The Half-Made World, is very fluid. It goes beyond mere ‘transparency’, but isn’t showy or laboured either; it easily carries the reader along with his tale and makes a high page count seem to fly by in no time at all. I imagine that no matter how large a book of his was it would never be plodding.Gilman’s tale in this book mainly centres on three characters: Arjun, the chorister and semi-scholar from a far-flung mountain monastery searching for his lost god and hoping that it can be found in the god-haunted confines of the archetypal city of Ararat; Arlandes, soldier and captain of the forces of the Countess (one of the many civil authorities vying for power and glory in the great city) who has suffered a tragic loss and become a symbol by turns both beloved and hated by the citizenry; and Jack Silk, a young boy who manages to escape from his imprisonment in a workhouse with the help of one of the city’s gods and who is granted an ambiguous gift by its passing. All three of these characters are somehow connected to the figure of Doctor Holbach, a man who could be considered scientist, wizard and priest in equal measure. Holbach is, like Arlandes, a member of the Countess’ court and ultimately is the creator of the great flying ship the Thunderer which becomes a symbol for all that is both right and wrong with the city. He is also the centre of the Atlas, a project that has been driven underground by the powers that be, but which continues to gather to itself the many discontented artists, scientists and intelligentsia of Ararat in the monumental effort to map out the city in its entirety. This is a prospect that is not as simple as it might seem on the surface, for Ararat is a city infested by gods (though some might call them haunts or demons) and the gods shape the city through their interaction with it, moulding and changing the landscape according to their whim. As one character notes: “The gods are the city. The city is us.” Yet the Atlas-makers persist in their hopes of creating the Grand Unified Theory of Ararat; a theory that might let them control and shape the many wild forces that control and shape their world. This is, of course, anathema and heresy to the political and religious powers that be, though even they are unaware of the real danger that such researches into the nature of the gods and the city might bring about in the wrong hands.One could really argue, however, that the true main character of _Thunderer_ is Ararat itself. It is the greatest of all possible cities, it *is* all possible cities. Its sheer size encompasses more than simply space, but time and meaning as well. It is the ever-changing City that seems to exist in all dimensions and none, that crosses through all times and encompasses all of what we mean when we say the word: City. The city itself is not medieval or renaissance, Victorian or modern, but it seems to have aspects of all of these, growing and changing in a way that has little or nothing to do with linear progress.The plot itself, however, revolves around the three protagonists already mentioned and their interactions with the City and each other. The opening of the book, and the catalyst for the action of the novel, is ultimately centred on the arrival of one of Ararat’s long-absent gods, the Bird, whose appearance heralds both the rise of Jack Silk and the creation of the titular Thunderer, a great flying warship that, through Hollbach’s magical science (or scientific magic), has also harnessed some of the Bird’s power. Arjun is on a quest to find the lost and gentle god of his people, known only as the Voice. It is a god of song and quiet harmony that would seem out of place with many of the gods he encounters in Ararat; the City’s gods are strong and uncompromising, gods of power, control, death and rebirth and Arjun soon becomes lost in the tangled streets these gods create, hoping against hope to find his lost purpose. Jack becomes a folk-hero, a child granted powers by the god of speed, freedom and flight and becomes a wild Peter Pan (there is even a neat homage to Peter Pan vs. the Pirates), gathering to himself all of the lost children of Ararat, breaking them out of prisons and workhouses and fighting the temporal and religious powers that sent them there. Both Jack and Arjun are touched directly by the gods of the City, one in power and joy, the other in choking darkness and despair. They become fey and strange to those around them, obsessed with their own altered perceptions and often viewed as mad. They have been changed by their experiences and can no longer comfortably live a life of normalcy for they stand outside of the range of normal human understanding, though many try to share vicariously in their god-touched experience. Arlandes is touched by a god too, though not in the direct metaphysical way that Jack and Arjun are. He is plunged into despair and anger by loss, through a seemingly unintentional sacrifice to the same god that granted Jack his great abilities during the process that created the great engine of destruction that shall become his emblem: the Thunderer. In following all of these characters, and the gods that empower them and their City, the story examines the birth of legends, the ways they change and, ultimately, how they die.The ambiguity of the characters Gilman has created is refreshing. Is Jack a revolutionary messiah, bringing freedom and justice to the oppressed, or is he a vicious, deluded child living out a boy’s violent fantasies in the name of his god and only ostensibly for the people? Is Arlandes the tragic and romantic hero of the great ship which protects the people, or is he a violent and angry thug doling out retribution against the world? Is Arjun an enlightened and peaceful seeker of the truth, or a deluded weakling looking for something outside of himself to fill up his life? The answer, in all cases, seems to be both. Ultimately as each of the characters fulfills the role the City seems to have selected for them things begin to unexpectedly change, and even spin out of control, for it is not only the Atlas-makers that are trying to learn the secrets of the City. It appears there are others with arcane knowledge that they use for less selfless purposes and we soon find that the gods and their ways are not to be tampered with. It was always known to its inhabitants that Ararat had a cycle of life and death, good and bad, and things always turned on this eternal wheel. The gods would inevitably change the City, but these changes were somewhat understood, at least at a gut level, by the people of the City, but what happens when someone dares to change the nature of the gods themselves? It is this danger that proves to be the ultimate conflict into which the characters find themselves drawn. The conclusion of the novel is somewhat open-ended, but I still found it to be satisfying and since there is a sequel I look forward to further following the winding streets of Ararat.Dan: I definitely recommend it.Also posted on Shelf Inflicted

  • Adam
    2019-07-04 16:38

    I enjoyed Gilman’s Half Made World and I am happy to report that I found his sensibilities fully formed on his debut novel. Much stock has been made of the author admitting in an interview that he was inspired to write by China Mieville, but anyone expecting to dismiss Gilman as a rip off or wanting carbon copy cloning of Mieville will be disappointed as Gilman is a writer with a more varied palate. While his inspiration channels horror, science fiction, pulp, and surrealism into baroque monstrosities, Gilman writes in clear headed and fluent prose that resembles magic realism. This isn’t to say he is more adult and more boring, for darkness and weirdness is very much present alongside sense of wonder fantasy constructs and surreal set pieces. I found the darker moments more so as Gilman makes his characters live and breathe increasing the stakes. Gilman writes mythic fabulism with smart narrative turns and an amazingly assured voice for a first time author. The final third plays with reality in similar way to vintage Moorcock and Borges and gets me excited for the sequel, even though this book feels beautifully self-contained.

  • Matt
    2019-07-14 18:24

    Like a storm, it's full of "sound and fury", but ultimately it fails because like the tale of the idiot it "signifies nothing".I've mentioned in some other reviews that I would far prefer a story teller to tell a good story badly than I would read a bad story told well. Felix Gilman’s writing sentence for sentence and paragraph for paragraph is quite good, and he obviously has the talent to be a great writer. His voice is great. It’s just he sends is characters off on meaningless tales that never really get anywhere interesting. The problem is not just a matter of not knowing how to end the story – personally I think making both of his protagonists into super powered superheroes right down to the multi-colored cape in one case was not the best way to go with this. It’s that he never seemed particularly clear on what his conflict was or what was driving the story. It ended up being neither plot driven nor character driven. Characters did things, often for no clear reason, often without overriding antagonists, with little clear reason why we should care. I said “both protagonists” earlier, but in fact there are three viewpoint characters, but the Arlandes chapters are as ultimately pointless as anything I’ve ever read.There was a brief moment half way into the story where I thought we might finally be getting a philosophical arc that might matter, but it was dropped, the climax of that arc was brief to the point of anti-climax, and we got nothing but another quarter to a third of the book of muddled motion on unrelated themes. Oh, and zombies. What is the fascination with zombies lately? Can we get through a story without having zombies in it?Finally, I hope he outgrows trying to imitate China Miéville, whose work seems to be peering over our shoulder as we read the whole time. Granted, Felix is nowhere nearly as pretentious as China, and it’s welcome to hear less pretentious of a voice in the writing, but at least China has his whole Marxist class consciousness thing going on that suggests why he wants to write and why he wants to write about cities in particular. I may not agree with it, but at least it is a point. Felix on the other hand seems fascinated by cities, but has nothing interesting to say about his mythic city.

  • aPriL does feral sometimes
    2019-07-08 12:48

    Mega-city Ararat is a city reputed to be home to many mysterious gods; no one knows why they haunt the ancient worn districts or even if the magical beings are sentient or simply forces of energy. The aristocratic Estates, the powerful business owners, the various religious organizations and the impoverished people who struggle to survive in the labyrinth of dirty streets are all waiting for the arrival of the god they call The Bird, which as it passes overhead somehow sends a powerful magic down below its path over Ararat, affecting those brave enough to stand directly under its winds. The Bird’s visitations are uncertain and unpredictable, and so is its magic; nonetheless, the scientist Holbach has deciphered certain omens and he has accurately predicted The Bird’s coming. In expectant celebration, the Countess Ilona, has engaged Holbach to re-design a river ship, named the Thunderer, captained by Arlandes, to be flown into the skies under a giant balloon which hopefully will be inflated by catching some of the god’s flying magic. Another balloon will be released at the same moment, with a single passenger, Arlandes’ young bride Lucia, both ritual ornaments for the unruly crowds of Ararat.Arjun, a famous composer, is looking for a runaway god - a specific, real god - that his people call the Voice. One day the music-worshiping people of his town woke up and discovered the Voice had gone, and the disappearance devastated them. Without the magic aura of the Voice, Arjun’s people had no purpose. Without purpose, they self-destructed. Arjun discovers a purpose after all; he will find the Voice. Ararat is the only single possible place he knows where he might pick up some clue as to why the Voice left, or died. As it happens, he arrives during the festivities surrounding The Bird’s arrival.Jack Sheppard is 15 or 16 years old (he doesn’t know), and he is officially an orphaned ward of a workhouse, Barbotin House. However, Jack is plotting an escape. Barbotin House is in reality a prison for poor children, who are cruelly worked to skin and bones laboring without surcease until they turn 18, after which they are turned out into the mean streets of Ararat without a penny. The business of Barbotin is running silk mills, and Jack has many scars and a missing finger from the work he has been forced to do in Barbotin’s service. Now, he has arranged to join the laundry detail, part of which involves working on the roof of the workhouse. It so happens the detail will be on the roof at the same time The Bird will be overhead - hopefully. Jack is willing to take the risk. He has stolen a sheet and prepared it with silken threads of various colors. When The Bird passes overhead, Jack plans to jump off of the roof, planning on The Bird’s magic which should give him temporarily the power of flight - and freedom.This is a marvelous book of Jungian-like archetypes (my opinion) in a fantastic alternative world which mirrors our Middle Ages but with genuine magic and many gods. Ancient world myths are alive in this universe, but disguised and transformed. The prose is excellent and despite the usual irrationality of the gods’ interference in the usual politics, business and spiritual seeking of the various sectors of civilization, I did not notice a wrong-footed plot direction or a jarring misplaced word. I don’t know why this author and particularly this two-book series has not garnered more attention. The story opens very slowly into an interesting novel which I suspect may be part of the difficulty for many readers who only choose to continue reading a book after trying the first 50 pages (a rule many readers follow - read the first 50 pages to decide if the novel is interesting enough to finish). There are several character threads which at first do not appear to have much cohesion or purpose or value to the reader to explore further, but eventually they all twine together in a satisfactory intersection, if not in an ultimate ending of success or meaning. (view spoiler)[There is no huge simple finish, but only ambiguity about the meaning of it all. (hide spoiler)] Adult readers who enjoy a literary fantasy will like this book, but others who may enjoy more simplistic action and a defined good cop/bad cop/justice done sequence will be disappointed by the questionable success of the violence, deaths and outcomes.(view spoiler)[It isn’t that the protagonists in this medieval urban fantasy feel their various quests are meaningless; but when they find only some sort of answer or half-meaning at the end of their quests, and many more questions, they struggle to change direction. (hide spoiler)]I liked it. However, I do not want to speak too much about the plot or the characters, other than to say those of us who have read many urban fantasy classics of the last 50 years will find no originality in the author’s imagined medieval city landscape or in the stable of included archetypes. However, most of the personalities are well-defined, warm and likable, and most are suitable for hero status. I know everyone who picks up this book will find a character that most appeals to them because s/he reminds them of their better selves - as well as of their imperfections, illogical decisions, neediness, self-involvement and in being somewhat lost even though trying to move forward. These are very realistic ‘heroes’, with clay feet (except perhaps Jack, a remarkable teenager who was my personal favorite). But there also is a filmy dark veil between the reader and the novel, unresolved meanings, and, given the nature of everything being archetypical, leans the story towards a noir fairy-tale, rather than something precautionary or uplifting.

  • Amanda
    2019-07-01 19:32

    Sometimes a book comes along and out of the blue it is one of the best stories you've read in a long time. This was that book for me. Loved it. It is on the same level as the world of Bas-Lag and the city Ambergris and above the level of the Well-Built City imo

  • Robin Wiley
    2019-07-07 12:38

    Ignore the haters! This was a very cool book! Imagine an unmappable, ever-changing city the size of a small state (is my guestimate) inhabited by gods. Old gods, new gods, nature gods, gods of different emotions, gods of different realms, gods of light, gods of darkness. All have powers. Some have temples and priests and followers. Others have been forgotten and lurk in the shadows. Imagine a street or canal that's there one day, and maybe isn't tomorrow - or maybe goes in a different direction. One god just appears occasionally, like a comet - and when it does - lives are changed. That's the day that we get to enter the city of Ararat, with one of the characters, Arjun.We follow three characters. Captain Arlandes is a naval captain whose life is tragically changed by the arrival of the above god. Arjun is monk/scholar who has come to Ararat searching for his god that disappeared from his land. The other character is an orphan in a workhouse who longs for a better life. The first 100 pages or so are intro. After that the characters start to run in the same sphere, or interact. The action kicks in and things get a lot more creepy after that.The cover above is a happy, friendly glimpse of Ararat. Don't be put off by the clownish look of the guy on the cover. I don't like to write spoilers so I won't say more. The cover I have gives you a much better idea how the book really goes.

  • Trey
    2019-07-12 19:37

    Look past the cover on this one. A great book all around. An accidental discovery in my quest to find a good Steam-Punk novel. "Thunderer" rises above many other books in this dismissive category Steam-Punk and although it apes other books about dystopian megalopolis, it really stands on its own. Me likie.

  • Ranting Dragon
    2019-07-03 15:40 is Felix Gilman’s debut novel. Gilman chronicles the quest to understand the divine and the challenges involved, even when the divine is plain to see. One man’s journey to find his God and return Him to his people, with no idea what awaits him in the Holy City of Ararat; one group’s clandestine mission to undertake a work of such staggering hubris and ambition, that their lives are forfeit if the wrong people discover their plan—through these two stories and their surrounding subplots, Gilman shows that anything can happen in the City of the Gods, even the completely unexpected.A Sweeping MetropolisThe primary action of the novel takes place in the city of Ararat—readers may know of the Turkish mountains of biblical fame—and these kinds of allegories to existing real-world mythology and spirituality are common throughout the novel, adding to the epic sweep and feel of the work. The city of Ararat is so huge that even people who have lived there for years don’t know how large it is. The presence of the divine warps the streets; there are no accurate maps of Ararat. The scope of the city pulls you in and keeps you interested in the ways the various characters move throughout the city and interact. A deep mythology permeates every corner and cranny of the massive space, and the path of discovery taken by several of the characters is fascinating enough to make a novel in itself. For everybody who has read and enjoyed the massive world-building exercises of Jordan or Tolkien, the depth and degree of this city—which is still simply a city and not a world—is staggering. I hope that Gilman turns his elaborate designs to yet larger scales.Of Gods And MenThe presence of the divine in Gilman’s world colors every aspect of the plot. Our protagonist is a young man who has come to the city in search of his God, completely unprepared for the size and complexity of the geography, the politics, and the philosophy at work in the great city. Traveling there from a small jungle community, for whom the size and sprawl of the city is as much myth as fact, he is overwhelmed by the sheer breadth of Ararat. Trying to fit in while finding the theologians and priests who might help him track his lost Deity, he ends up discovering more than he bargained for. He falls in with a group of men who have undertaken an extremely dangerous and blasphemous project: a comprehensive atlas of the city. In a place where the Gods walk the streets and leave those roadways changed simply by their passage, such an atlas is the height of heresy. Every project is secret, every person brought into the endeavor is an added threat to their safety, and they risk the umbrage of the Gods themselves.It’s a debut and it showsAs engaging as the storyline is, problems with flow and pacing show this book to be the author’s first. Gilman takes some time to get into the meat of the story, and some of his word choices leave a little to be desired. I came somewhat close to putting it down in the first 50 or 60 pages, but decided to stick it out on the strength of its potential. Gilman finds his rhythm by the mid-point, and from then on, the book becomes much more enjoyable. Still, the novel reads very much like the author is unsure of himself and is experimenting with different writing styles. I have no doubt that once he settles into a consistent style, he’s going to be producing many books with very engaging stories.Why should you read this book?While it starts out a little shaky, taking longer than necessary to find its feet and start off running, this is an enjoyable story in which the characters grow increasingly engaging as the novel progresses. Gilman has created a very deep and extensive city—a design that allows for a whole host of later works. I really do hope to see future novels from Gilman that take place in Ararat.The novel also conveys a lot of interesting ideas about religion and the nature of faith. Those of a more philosophical bent will find that the interactions between the secular and divine inspire intellectual thought. The storyline involving the effects of an atlas of the city especially speaks to the idea of faith as a construct versus faith in beings which are obviously present.All in all, if you’re willing to suffer through a new author’s inexperience, this is a very enjoyable read, with a great deal of potential for the future.

  • Patrick
    2019-06-24 17:34

    I'm not even sure how to describe Thunderer. For plot details, you can read the summary as well as I can. I guess I can say that the incredibly rich world was utterly immersive, and the city Ararat was as much a character as Arjun or Jack. The depth of feeling given to Ararat reminded me of China Miéville's great city, New Crobuzon. Like New Crobuzon, there is a hint of H. P. Lovecraftian dread, but not nearly so much. Instead, Ararat can be joyous, depressing, wonderful, and workaday.The other characters in the book are reasonably well realized, and while there were a few tropes, there were also a few real novelties.Truthfully, the plot is almost secondary to the world-building going on, and while it moved along and was enjoyable, it's probably not what I'll keep coming back to. If you like losing yourself in new worlds, this is the book for you. If, instead, you're looking for deep plot or revealing character studies, then you might want to pass it by.

  • Michael
    2019-07-07 17:32

    This book is incredibly unique. The setting of a city with infinite possibilities and where gods walk and affect daily life was really intriguing and the author did an incredibly good job of making it feel real and making the characters within it feel alive. Highly recommend this book and its sequel.

  • Nayad Monroe
    2019-07-22 12:35

    I'm not sure it's possible to describe this book, but it's brilliant. I would give it ten stars if I could. The setting--a vast, intricate, layered city full of gods that manifest and constantly reshape the streets--is AMAZING. It's exactly what I look for in fiction, and I think it would be particularly appealing to fans of Tim Powers and China Mieville.

  • Forrest
    2019-07-12 14:34

    The first thing that comes to mind to say about this fantastic book is that the author clearly loves the English language. His writing is a wonder to anyone who loves interesting word usage that steps outside the standard limited vocabulary usually seen in novels today. Also, the book could best be described as, "fairly interesting characters very nearly overshadowed by the setting of the story." For me, that's what this story is. The scholarly, quiet, thoughtful Arjun, the almost Peter Pan-like Jack Silk (replete with knife and flying ability!), and the entire rest of the cast, all are fairly well fleshed out, though they do tend to be somewhat wooden and nonsensical at times, usually in their responses to the main characters or each other. However, it felt more "real" as a result, because most people these days listen with their mouths and not their ears so to speak, so the way some of the characters were written, these responses made perfect sense after you came to understand how perenially sidetracked and absent-minded they are. I do feel like the ending was somewhat rushed, but I've just learned that there is a sequel to this story, so perhaps we are given more of a resolution to the overall main plot of this book. I highly recommend this book, and while I picked it up from the library on a whim, I absolutely will be buying this book as it NEEDS to be in my collection. I began visiting the Library again just to find sheer gems like this, and I am glad to say I found this book.

  • Onewooga
    2019-06-29 11:34

    This was really a tough one. I ultimately had to give it one star because I put it down and just couldn't pick it back up again. I didn't hate it, or have any sort of violent reaction to it at all, which makes me WANT to give it at least 2 stars, but the fact remains, I just couldn't get interested enough to finish it. Maybe this means I'm finally older and can see the true limited quantity of my remaining time here on earth and have chosen to move on to other, more worthy stories, except that I hardly ever just quit on a book. And I just finished Mercedes Lackey's "The Sleeping Beauty" and that's HARDLY high quality fiction. But I just couldn't find the plot. I think it starts out fine on the surface: magical city of gods, looking for lost god, plucky orphan tie-in...but it just still felt...surfacey about 1/3 of the way in and I kept thinking, "I'm bored. Am I bored? I think I'm not actually paying attention to this." So sorry, Thunderer. Maybe I'll try again later. You seemed like you had some interesting ideas, but that Mercedes Lackey just keeps pumping out the good stuff. You'd better call her and complain.

  • Brandon Blackwell
    2019-07-09 19:48

    When I first read this book, all I can say was that I was enthralled. We travel with the protagonist as he's sailing into port, the author describing this great, strange city as a giant bird god swoops down and flies over the harbor and the streets, indifferently trailing miracles in its wake. Splendid storytelling. I'm sure this book has its flaws, but honestly, in my eyes it has little to none. Obviously YMMV. In a nutshell then: this is a book I would recommended to the fantasy lover who enjoys a bit of urban fantasy ala Mieville's New Crobuzon books, a bit of horror via King's Dark Tower Series (perhaps a vague link, but I'll stand by it), and a subtle sense of 'realness' that I compare to the Gormenghast books, IMHO. I actually just read the blurbs on the first pages and a lot of people call it 'Dickensian'. That seems right, though it's been awhile since I've read any Dickens. Anyways...Have at you!

  • Smoothw
    2019-07-16 16:29

    An okay first novel, which deserves to be read despite its flaws and first novel kinks. And now to list those flaws, because I am a born nitpicker at heart a) there is a tension between the descriptions of the city of Ararat as a kind of unknowable, out of time city like M John Harrisons Viriconium, and the actions of the novel, which make the city seem a pretty comprehensible magical steampunk world b) some main viewpoint characters don't really go anywhere c) swear to god every other fantasy novel I have read recently has a gang of street urchins, that thread in this novel was better done than most, and I know it's from Dickens, but still, cliché d) and kind of weak resolution. However, read this for the description of the main protagonists', Arjun, childhood, and for the very creepy idea of being stalked by a swamp, which reminded me, a good way, of old Vertigo comics.

  • Joy
    2019-07-21 13:42

    This Dickensian, steampunk fantasy is not for every reader. Its a journey more than a goal. For me its a great refreshment to find fantasy that's not some quest in a feudal, Ren Fair world. Ararat, the city of 'absurd reverence.' reminded me of the crazy quilt that was The Gormenghast Novels: Titus Groan/Gormenghast/Titus Alone castle with a dose of string theory. "The city was the only constant; the city, and its vast northern Mountain. There was an infinite variety of people, and of gods. In some places, they thought they had only one god, insubstantial and abstract; in others, the gods strode about far more brazenly... 'Why does it work this way?''Who gives a shit? Keep your eyes on the path. This way.'" ~Gilman

  • Sean
    2019-07-17 14:30

    This is one of the best "first books" I've read. (Perhaps because, if Gilman's unreliable-sounding bio is to be believed, he had written any number of books before this one was actually published.) In any case, this is a dense, intricate, muddy, luminous work that reminds me of nothing so strongly as a cross between China Miéville and Patricia A. McKillip at their best. As unlikely a hybrid as that sounds, that comes closest. But I should warn you: I have read two of Gilman's books thus far and not a single description of either was more than minimally, superficially accurate, so take my comparison (and this review) with a heavy dose of salt.

  • John Adams
    2019-07-12 14:47

    Uneven plot, but wonderfully poetic prose. An enjoyable cousin of Perdido Street Station, featuring some cool speculations about the interrelationships between the gods, the worshipers, and the city.

  • Wade
    2019-06-25 14:39

    The title and the cover make this book seem at first like your typical generic fantasy, yet it manages to avoid the standard tropes you might think it would fall into. The problem with liking a new writer this much is that he doesn't have anything else out to read; luckily the sequel to this one should be out soon.

  • Theo
    2019-07-06 11:28

    Quite dull, with boring characters and mediocre to decent prose. Some decent ideas, but the plot was a mess overall.

  • Tanabrus
    2019-07-19 15:44

    Le premesse per questo libro erano intriganti: la ricerca della divinità perduta di un popolo, una città allo stesso tempo benedetta e maledetta, creature mistiche, una nave che cattura il potere del Dio-uccello ottenendo la facoltà di volare, poteri oscuri… ne avevo anche letto dei pareri favorevoli in America.L’impatto con il libro invece è stato molto deludente.Di cosa parla in realtà il libro?Di quello di cui doveva parlare, certo, ma in toni diversi da quelli che avevo immaginato.Abbiamo Arjun, una specie di ragazzo-monaco che vive tra le montagne, in un monastero abitato dalla Voce, una sorta di melodia perfetta che venerano come divinità e che parla ai monaci. Quando la Voce scompare, e i monaci cominciano a decadere, Arjun intraprende una lunga e pericolosa ricerca della Voce, una ricerca che noi non vediamo ma di cui osserviamo la fine, l’arrivo ad Ararat, la città ai confini del mondo. Una città ritenuta da alcuni benedetta, da altri infestata.Infestata da cosa? Dagli Dei. Da decine, centinaia, migliaia di dei. Gli dei vivono nella città, anche se in una sorta di dimensione differente, manifestandosi raramente. Ma vivono in quello spazio. Ne sono attirati.La città stessa ne risente, in un rapporto di simbiosi misteriosa con le entità soprannaturali.Così abbiamo una città che sembra infinita, confinante con il mare (da cui giungono i pochi visitatori) e con l’immensa e misteriosa Montagna. Per il resto, una distesa senza fine di quartieri, torri, case. Divisi tra centinaia di signorotti locali, ognuno con il proprio esercito. Le guerre non sono con l’esterno, ma tra questi signori.E sopratutto, non esistono mappe. Sarebbero un affronto alle divinità.Perchè la città muta. Il passaggio degli Dei la modifica, i fiumi cambiano il loro corso, le strade mutano, la topografia è sempre differente.E i cittadini, ciò nonostante, non impazziscono. Anzi, venerano la loro città e le sue molteplici divinità.Arjun arriva qui alla ricerca della sua Voce, ipotizzando che sia stata attirata dal luogo come in passato sembra sia successo ad altre divinità.Nel frattempo, avviene il ritorno del Dio-uccello, un volatile bianco e immenso intorno al quale si radunano tutti i volatili della città e sulla cui scia la gente può accogliere frammenti del suo potere, riuscendo a volargli dietro.Questo momento era atteso da due diverse persone.Jack è un ragazzo costretto in una prigione minorile, condannato ad anni di lavori forzati lì dentro. Sfrutterà il passaggio dell’uccello per fuggire, ottenendo però -unico caso- definitivamente dei poteri elargiti dall’uccello: poco a poco scoprirà di essere più veloce delle altre persone, più leggero. Di potere volare, di avere una missione riguardante la libertà.Holbach è un professore, uno studioso. Ha predetto il ritorno dell’uccello leggendo vari segni comparsi in città, e ha trovato il modo di sfruttarlo per itnrappolare parte del suo potere nella Thunderer, la più grande nave da guerra della sua mecenate, la Contessa reggente di quella parte di città.Le storie di queste tre persone si intrecciano, ovviamente, mentre il Professore continua i suoi studi sognando di mappare l’intera città e di cambiare lo status quo, mentre la Thunderer diviene un’arma poderosa della Contessa, mentre Arjun si imbatte in trafficanti di divinità, mentre Jack diventa una sorta di Peter Pan che guida i suoi ragazzi perduti contro le varie prigioni liberando i loro simili.I problemi di questo libro sono molteplici, però.Prima di tutto, manca un vero senso. Per buona parte del libro, la trama sembra quella di Arjun. Che rimane pressochè sullo sfondo, impossibilitato a procedere. E infatti alla fine non avrà fatto un solo passo in avanti verso il ritrovamento della Voce.Alla fine la vera trama sarà quella del Professore, e magari di Jack. Arjun ha senso solo perchè nella sua ricerca finisce con l’avere una parte importante nel causare la pazzia di una divinità, il Tifone, il Dio del fiume che passa lungo quella parte della città. E il Dio impazzito cercherà i responsabili della sua imperfezione, portando morti ed epidemie nei quartieri della città devastata dalle rivolte.Per due terzi almeno del libro si respira un’aria di inutilità: dove è il senso del libro?Il fatto che il senso del libro si trovi solo quando quella che dovrebbe la trama principale arriva a due terzi del libro stesso, mi pare una grande idiozia.Poi si dà tantissimo spazio al capitano della Thunderer, che sembra sempre sul punto di diventare importante: si alleerà con Arjiun per portarlo alla ricerca della Voce? Con il Professore per mappare? Con Jack per diventare un paladino della libertà?E invece rimane sempre sullo sfondo (ma con i riflettori puntati addosso) e alla fine la sua morte viene liquidata con una frase semplice semplice. Che senso ha avuto dargli tutto quello spazio, parlare di come era distrutto per la morte della moglie, del suo rapporto con la Contessa, della sua crescente disperazione, se poi è stato liquidato così e non ha avuto alcun ruolo in tutto il libro?No, non mi ha convinto per niente.Certo, alcune cose erano interessanti.Come il misterioso trafficante di divinità che insegna a Arjun i passaggi segreti da aprire per camminare tra le città nella città, nel tempo e nello spazio. O la figura di Jack, in un certo senso. O gli uomini dell’Atlas. O anche la storia del Dio imperfetto.Ma manca una storia alle spalle; c’è troppa dispersione; troppa luce su personaggi inutili.Alla fine è stata una delusione.

  • Matt
    2019-07-22 11:29

    Hi, my name is Matt and I am cover junkie. Hi Matt.When Felix Gilman’s Gears of the City was released I instantly fell in love with the cover art. Yes, I freely admit that I do buy books with cool cover art. When I got home I actually realized that it was a sequel. So back to the store I went to pick up a copy of Thunderer, which, by the way, has cover art I do not like that much.This was a frustrating read for me. At times, this is brilliant novel and at other times I had to force myself to continue to read it. I can really see flashes of brilliance in Mr. Gilman’s work but he makes you work for it. The strength of this novel is definitely in the world building as it is exceptional. But the story suffers under excessive plotting. The novel is saved by a strong third act that pulls the story together in a very enjoyable way.The novel essentially follows two characters, Arjun and Jack Silk. In my opinion, Arjun is the more enjoyable of the two. Arjun is on a mission from his home city to locate their lost God, The Voice. He decides to search the vast city of Ararat where there is numerous Gods and it possible that The Voice is hidden somewhere in the city.Jack Silk is young man forced to work in a warehouse. One day, with arrival of the God known as the Bird, Jack plans his escape. As the giant Bird flys over Ararat it imparts the gift of flight to all who come into it’s range. Jack is able use this partial flight gift to help leap over the building’s defenses and escape. Unbeknownst to Jack some of this abilities become permanent.The most important character in the novel is the city itself, Ararat. It is called the city that cannot mapped because the Gods are constantly changing the streets, canals, etc at their own whim. The reader explores a very small portion of the city but what a wondrous place it is. Other portions are mentioned but I like that Mr. Gilman had the restraint from describing every portion of the city and will this leave to other novels. The city is also lousy with Gods. There is the Spider, Canal, Ball, Chain, etc. Gods play a important roll in peoples lives. But the Gods motivations are never clear, which makes life more of a mystery. As I said, the City is the true star of the book.I haven’t mentioned the name behind the title. The Thuderer is a warship which steals a portion of the Birds flight capability and can attack any in the city unmolested. Believe or not, the ship only plays a minor role in the story.What I liked: The world building is incredible and the real strength of this novel. Mr. Gilman makes a good a choice in having a non-native, Arjun, explore the city. So, as he explores, you explore.What I didn’t like: I really did not like the character Jack Silk. His story takes up about 30% of the novel and I found myself reading fast to get back to Arjun and his adventures.Last word: This novel was a struggle for me but in the end I am glad I stuck it out. I will be reading Felix Gilman’s follow up novel, Gears of the City (you know, the one with the cool cover). This novel will not appeal to everyone as the slow plotting will aggravate some readers, but if you can stick it out until the third act then you will be rewarded with a great story.

  • Katerine
    2019-07-11 18:42

    Город Арарат населяют тысячи тысяч богов. Кто-то из них известен, кто-то не очень, одни находят тебя сами, других вызывают верные последователи. Арарат не минует никто. Топография города неизвестна, он меняется с каждым днем и с каждым новым обитателем. Карты города становятся делом государственным. Таким образом, если вы слишком интересуетесь картографией, постарайтесь это не афишировать.Однажды в город прибывает Арджун – ученый и музыкант. Единственный известный ему бог покинул своих последователей, и Арджун надеется найти его здесь. В тот же день капитан Арландес получает единственный на весь мир летающий корабль, но при этом гибнет его невеста. В тот же день с одной из шелковых фабрик сбегает подросток Джек, который скоро становится предводителем таких же как он бродяжек.Дальше их истории разворачиваются параллельно, почти не затрагивая друг друга. Вот Джек вынужден защищать свою банду от детей, бродящих по городу в белых балахонах и уничтожающих все произведения искусства и вообще всё, что, по их мнению не любит их бог. Вот Арландес следит за этим движением с небес, сожалея о том, что из-за приказов покровителей его корабль становится только угрозой и орудием убийства. Вот Арджун краем уха слышит что-то о новых религиозных культах, а сам начинает работать на местных заговорщиков, помогая им составить атлас города.Главным героем у Гилмана вышел всё-таки город. Описывая Арарат, он как-то умудрился скрестить викторианский Лондон (туманы от реки, мьюзик-холлы, пансионы с типично английскими персонажами, безумные шарлатаны и ученые) с итальянским Возрождением (город управляется несколькими враждующими семействами; религиозные бунты почти савонароловского размаха). И читая понимаешь, что эти три истории – всего лишь капля из тысячи тысяч других.Арландес, размах истории которого так много обещал, из “проклятого человека в черном” (с) становится просто тенью. Для истории Арджуна остается вторая книга. Лучший герой, на мой вкус, Шелковый Джек – единственный, кто ощутимо меняется и добивается того, к чему стремился.Итоги: для дебютного романа – очень хорошо, и я его, несомненно, буду перечитывать. Но если несколько задумчивая манера повествования вас не привлекает, лучше не беритесь.

  • Lindsey Duncan
    2019-07-04 17:45

    Thunderer is a complex novel about an enigmatic, labyrinthine city with unknown boundaries; the bizarre, indifferent gods that flood its streets; and a cast of characters navigating this maze, foremost among them Arjun, a priest seeking his lost god of music, the Voice. And the list really should be in that order: it's first and foremost a book of setting, and everything else cascades from there. It's been a long time since I've read a book where the world was so perfectly integrated into and necessary to the plot. That aspect of the book is phenomenal, and leaves the reader with intriguing questions: how aware are the gods of their worshippers? Are they free-willed beings, or do they follow mechanical rules? Can the city be measured? What else lies within its walls?Unfortunately, there were some ambiguities in the setting that detracted from it. I was never quite clear on the tech level. Sometimes, it seemed Victorian; other references seemed downright modern. Mostly, this was a matter of word choice.Outside of the setting is where this story falters. The primary "romance" in the book is emblematic of much of the decisions the characters make: an accommodation of convenience, not love, not even lust. Only Jack seems to put his claws into a goal and go for it wholeheartedly; the other characters stumble through, letting themselves be detoured because they can't see a clearer way to their goals. This keeps the emotional timbre of the book low throughout, with one major spike near the end ... after which it drops off to attempt a second, lesser climax.On the positive side, I enjoyed the way the characters didn't quite intersect or interact, but rather passed each other - or rumors of each other - on the vast streets of their tiny corner of the city. When they finally do collide, they do so with powerful literary momentum, and the result is the most satisfying section of the book.Ultimately, this book was interesting and impressive, but left me cold. I don't know that I care enough about this absorbing setting to read the sequel.

  • Grimread
    2019-07-18 15:47

    This is a tough one. Another re-read of the book so that I can continue the series and remember what happened in this one. Although I don't think it's a badly written book I will leave the 2 star rating because of one fatal flaw. The main characters, good or bad, in this book just have no real meaning. It almost seems like their existence adds nothing to the story.In the beginning you get to know them and get exciting to see how they will all meet. Then somewhere in the middle when the "revolution" starts they all get somehow lost in the city. What ever they do has no impact on the story or the city. And then the ending has to resolve something so we get back to Arjun and Jack and in 4 pages they manage to fix the vengeful-god-problem and getting the city back to normal, something that hasn't really been tried for the last third of the book.A portion of this book is dedicated to trying to build them into something but then when the part of Ararat is in action (raids, fire, angry god) they become completely impotent, drifting somewhere in the sidelines. Arjun follows Holbach because he just can't seem to think for himself, Jack leads his Thunderers into pointless fights that don't really make sense, Arlandes is moping in his office. Arlandes is probably the most wasted character in the book. The way Gilman writes it you expect for Arlandes to pull through in some daring stunt with the Thunderer, but there is nothing in the book to make him be a loved or hated character. He is the most annoying self pitying waste of paper I have seen.It also seems that it is written for every character that in the end they do the exact opposite of what they were saying. Olympia and Holback wanted to stay but they left the city; Arjun wanted to leave but stayed; Arlandes wanted to fight for the Countess but then he leaves her for the ship; Jack is probably the only one who achieved his goal. He wanted to be free.I think this lack of keeping the reader interested in the characters is what made me choose such low rating.

  • Paula
    2019-07-20 17:29

    I have to admit, when I first picked this one up, I was expecting some run of the mill steampunk story given the blurb on the back cover, only to find that it was something much more complex than that...The basic premise of 'Thunderer' (which is, alas, I think also it's weak point) is that it's a bunch of different stories that all converge in the end - the city in which it's set (called Ararat) is a malleable place, where streets can shift and entire districts emerge or disappear, a place inhabited by a plethora of gods which impact on the city and its people to varying extents. One of the stories told in 'Thunderer' is about Arjun, who comes to Ararat in search of a divine presence that has left the place where he grew up; given its inhabitants, Ararat seems a sensible place to search for that presence.I'm a bit torn over 'Thunderer', to be honest, as I'm not totally sure that I give a damn about some of the characters, which is always a source of difficulty. In particular, the female characters in the book are clearly secondary and in a supporting role, there to be acted upon rather than acting (with the exception of the malevolent Countess, who gets her come-uppance in the end for acting out of type). There's a sequel, Gears of the City, but given my misgivings about this book, I can't say it's something I'll be searching out with great enthusiasm...

  • Sharon
    2019-07-21 13:31

    Parts of this book were brilliant. I'd really have liked to have given it three and a half stars, but I couldn't bring myself to give it a four. Strangely about fifty pages from the end I was convinced this was a five star book but then it all unravelled for me.What I liked most about this book was the city itself. Everytime I thought I had a grasp on its size and complexity, it just got bigger and better. The characters paled in comparison to it though and that is not a good thing. I actually think I preferred the minor characters like Olympia and Holboch, to Arjun and Arlandes and Jack.What disappointed me in the end was the lack of explanation for things I had become intrigued by. How did Shay contain elements of the Gods? How had he created the Typhon or corrupted it? There seemed no clear explanation for it. Even the explanation of how Shay and Arjun weaved their way through the maze of different paths seemed very "handwavium."Plus, the notion of a God not being able to walk the paths that Arjun and Shay walked seemed fairly unbelievable to me, so therefore I didn't buy how Arjun managed to get the Typhon lost. No one else seems to have this problem with the book though so it must be just me.Overall though, it was worth the read. I have mixed feelings about whether I'll buy the next book or not. It appears to be about Arjun again, and I just did not fall in love with the little chap. :)

  • Kayla
    2019-07-11 13:46

    I was wary when starting to read this novel. I'd read China Mieville's Perdido Street Station about a year ago and, while I had been able to recognize the man's talent, there was something about the novel that just did not work with me. Thunderer looked like it was about to head down that road that I really didn't want to follow it down. I didn't want to read something brutal, gritty, and depressing, the only message of which was despair, although those things wouldn't have ncessarily made Thunderer a BAD novel.While there is loss of hope, however, permeating most of the novel, and very CLEAR similarities to China Mieville (if Gilman hasn't read Perdido Street Station then I'm the queen of England), I didn't have to FORCE myself to finish this novel. The characters are compelling, easy to love, and complex in tragic ways that make you truly care abou them and want the best for them.Like a previous reviewer said, Gilman avoids all of the things that Thunderer did wrong. While the story takes a little bti to get going, the writing is pretty tight, the language accesible. I didn't get lost in the narrative and feel like I had to go back and figure out what was going on. And there's hope throughout - never despair - something that I was not expecting but am certainly pleased to find.Would definitely reommend this.

  • Staticblaq
    2019-07-07 19:35

    A reread. Interestingly, previously I struggled through it and only found the end really intriguing. This time, reading through and already knowing the end, but having forgotten the rest, I found the book so rich and interesting all the way through. I enjoyed this book so much more the second time. It's amazing to think this was a debut book. Indeed, this book is far better than I originally gave Gilman credit for. There are just so many stories and struggles weaving through it, it's a wondrous story.Original Review below.=====================================================================Felix Gilman unbeknowingly become one of my favourite authors at this point in time and Thunderer was the first novel I read. I later picked up The Half-Made World completely by accident and didn't realise it was the same author until halfway through!It was an odd little novel, and quite the slow-burner. It may well have been in danger of not making it to the end, but there was enough there to keep me going. But when the main character starts exploring the city towards the end, I found the story really took flight (excuse the pun) and I wish there had of been more of that. That part really filled me with wonder.It's been a while since I read this now, and most of the details have since fled. I guess a re-read is in order!

  • Chris Branch
    2019-07-17 17:36

    Without a doubt this is one for the China Miéville fans - which I thought I was for a little while, before recognizing that his work is generally a bit too grim for me. Anyone who liked, for example, Iron Council, I can pretty much guarantee will like this one.Anyway, this book starts off more magical and lyrical compared to Miéville's harsh and gritty stories, and if it had continued in that vein, I would have given it higher marks. Unfortunately, it slowly but surely descends into the same grim chaos of urban violence that's become Miéville's trademark, and I've found that I just don't find that enjoyable to read, regardless of how creative the setting and concepts are.The writing, I have to say, was top notch: clear and evocative, and the characters were for the most part intriguing. A twist that comes around page 400 (of 448) was particularly well executed, and some of the grace and magic that was evident at the beginning returns to the story, making the climax and ending engaging and fairly satisfying. I would look forward to trying something else by Gilman if he does anything that emphasizes what I thought was positive about this one.