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Thunderer (Thunderer #1)

3.61 of 5 stars 3.61  ·  rating details  ·  667 ratings  ·  90 reviews
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 creatu
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published December 26th 2007 by Spectra (first published January 1st 2007)
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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 bet ...more
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 monstro ...more
aPriL eVoLvEs (ex-Groot)
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 dow
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
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. ...more
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

Thunderer 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
Nayad Monroe
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.
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
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 ...more
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 ...more
Brandon Blackwell
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 enjo ...more
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 n ...more
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 s
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 ...more
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 con
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.
Jennifer Taw
Thunderer's fantastical world is well-rooted in our much so, in fact, that I had trouble immersing myself in the book because I kept stopping to think about what Gilman meant...our own effects on reality, the gods (are they just natural phenomena? But no-o-o), cynical manipulative politics, what Jack/Peter Pan represents, etc. It's fun to be challenged to think, but somehow the process was less organic, required actively disengaging from the book, and so slowed me down and kept me from ...more
Quite dull, with boring characters and mediocre to decent prose. Some decent ideas, but the plot was a mess overall.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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 t
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lindsey Duncan
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 ne ...more
Chris Branch
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 gri
Kayla Rose
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 Thund ...more
Its been a while since I've like a book so much by an author I haven't read before. Well, I guess I've read his little bit in the symposium section of The New Weird, but that hardly counts. Unfortunately, this is Gilman's first book so I can't go find everything else he's written. Usually I'm late enough catching onto writers I like this much that when I find one I have a few older things to tide me over while I wait for him to put something else out.

Like I said in a review of a certain antholog
Korneliusz Olejniczak
Książka pokazuje bardzo ciekawy świat, rządzone przez bogów, wpływających na każdy jego aspekt. Jest to jednak przedstawione w niezbyt strawnej formie. Książka się ciągnie, poprzez żmudne opisy, monologi wewnętrzne, zewnętrze, czy spacery po mieście. Nie powiem, taki zabieg nie jest zły, ale nie w ilościach hurtowych. Przez to lektura się dłuży niemiłosiernie.

Postacie za to są intrygujące, każda z własną, bardzo dobrze zarysowaną historią. Samo miasto, które jest tak naprawdę jednym z nich jest
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
I don't mind info dumps. Really, info dumps are useful, lets the reader know the parameters of the fantasy world, quickly sketches in the backstory, etc. This novel's first 40 pages (which is all I read) is primarily info dump. I might have continued .... if I could have maintained the "willing suspension of disbelief" for this world. I couldn't.

Still, this is a first novel, and I'd be willing to give the author another try someday.
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Other Books in the Series

Thunderer (2 books)
  • Gears of the City
The Half-Made World (The Half-Made World, #1) The Rise of Ransom City (The Half-Made World, #2) Gears of the City The Revolutions Lightbringers and Rainmakers

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