My rating: 3 of 5 stars
i love Felix Gilman’s ideas (The Half-Made World was a killer, killer idea) but am not so sure about his execution of those ideas. i read both The Half-Made World and The Rise of Ransom City because three ideas in it were so compelling (the world still making itself; the struggle between the rational and the irrational; and the Red Republic [and, i must confess, my knee-jerk anti-authoritarian impulse to admire The Gun])–it was sufficient to compel me through the books. the people in the books, however, are not quite as compelling, and this is a problem.
The Revolutions begins in a pretty bog-standard Victorian England, plus magicians. our main protagonists, Arthur and Josephine, meet and fall in love (which, in terms of print ink, is dispensed with pretty quickly). then our lovers fall prey to a group of magicians who may be good, or may be bad, and everything goes wonky.
the wonkiness that ensues has to do with Mars, and Martians, and the lust for power on the part of one of the great magicians. as a plotline, it’s not as compelling to me as the half-made world, but it’s okay, and i do very much like Gilman’s imagining of the Martians and what happened to their society. but it seems to me that everything in the book hinges on the love story–do we believe that the lovers will go to such lengths to be together again? and the answer is no, because Gilman dispensed with their coming together so quickly.
it’s a problem in his work, the failure to make the characters really sing.
ultimately this book felt like a fun and imaginative intellectual exercise, but not really one that grabbed me by the heart.