The Revolutions by Felix Gilman

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The Revolutions by Felix Gilman

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: Rachael Spencer
Reviewed by Rachael Spencer
Summary: An interesting read which takes a bit of a muddled turn about halfway through, but which I'd certainly give a go if historical science fiction is your bag. Very well written, but a bit over complicated in the end. Enjoyable never the less though, with a very good sense of Victorian London's occult scene.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 480 Date: September 2014
Publisher: Corsair
ISBN: 9781472113276

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It is Victorian era London and Arthur Shaw loses his job in the great storm, but in amongst the wind and rain he also finds his future fiancee, a writer by the name of Josephine who has been known to skitter about the outskirts of the occult scene so popular at the time. When a mysterious man turns up at one of the meetings and offers Arthur a job, something seems amiss. What are Arthur and Josephine getting themselves into?

The Revolutions by Felix Gilman is a particularly interesting read. Gilman has a real knack when it comes to characterisation, an aspect which I find can often let down a lot of novels, but which is pretty much impeccable here. Each character has an excellent sense of self, with their own mannerisms and ticks which really help to pull you head long into this particularly mad yet atmospheric story. The dialogue does that most difficult of things in making each character sound individual, just to back up the narrative fabulously.

What I particularly enjoy about this author’s writing is that he manages to incredibly successfully evoke the sense and feel of Victorian London without getting lost in the possible quagmire of overwrought language and dialogue. I enjoy very much the fact that it focuses on the craze of the occult which was ever popular at the time and is sometimes possibly a little overlooked in favour of horse and carts and Sherlock Holmes. There are plenty of mentions of the great detective of course, given his massive popularity at the time, and other things which tip the hat to recognisable Victorian literature. However, there is a nicely unsettling undertone to the start of the book which sets the reader slightly on the back foot from the off. Are the things which are being hinted at real, or is it some trickery which our protagonists are yet to uncover?

I felt like it got muddled about a third of the way through, and sadly became increasingly difficult to focus on, or follow with any real gusto. This was particularly a shame because the opening of the book had developed such pace. It threw me somewhat when it flitted its focus from character to character and by the last part of the book I felt a little more disconnected from the text as a whole, because I thought the characters were somewhat lost under the weight of the story being constructed.

I think this turns out not to be the novel the reader starts off thinking it’s going to be, which could be either a good thing or a bad thing dependent on what you were expecting and how open minded you are to a somewhat bizarre, steampunk style romp across the planets. I found it quite invigorating to have the rug pulled from under me, and always like it when a novel gives me something unexpected, but this time it wasn’t completely successful, sadly. Having said all that, I did enjoy the last chapter of the book greatly, because I thought it gave a particularly good sense of the character of Josephine incredibly well, in her later life.

Overall, a writer who is exceptionally good with words but may well be prone to overcomplicating plots a little, losing the reader somewhere along the way. I’d definitely give it a go though, and I will be reading his other novels to see where this relatively new author goes. Give it a chance, but expect to flounder a little around half way through.

If you have an eclectic taste in science fiction, like this book, you could try The Time Traveller's Almanac by Anne VanderMeer and Jeff VanderMeer, a collection of different tales from the best in the business.

Buy The Revolutions by Felix Gilman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Revolutions by Felix Gilman at

Buy The Revolutions by Felix Gilman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Revolutions by Felix Gilman at


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