This is the story of Harry Ransom. If you know his name it's most likely as the inventor of the Ransom Process, a stroke of genius that changed the world.
Or you may have read about how he lost the battle of Jasper City, or won it, depending on where you stand in matters of politics.
Friends called him Hal or Harry, or by one of a half-dozen aliases, of which he had more than any honest man should. He often went by Professor Harry Ransom, and though he never had anything you might call a formal education, he definitely earned it.
If you're reading this in the future, Ransom City must be a great and glittering metropolis by now, with a big bronze statue of Harry Ransom in a park somewhere. You might be standing on its sidewalk and not wonder in the least of how it grew to its current glory. Well, here is its story, full of adventure and intrigue. And it all starts with the day that old Harry Ransom crossed paths with Liv Alverhyusen and John Creedmoor, two fugitives running from the Line, amidst a war with no end.
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As a child, Harry Ransom was healed from a usually fatal illness by a mysterious light-emitting apparatus, setting him on a quest to replicate it through a means he calls the Ransom Process, which is "more fundamental than electricity." During the course of bankrolling his research and the utopian Ransom City, he runs afoul of agents of the forces of Industry and Chaos, who are battling for dominance of a newly colonized continent. His technological success also sparks hope and consternation that he's found a way to end the constant warfare, particularly out on the Western Rim, where nature's laws become unpredictable and wild. This sequel to The Half-Made World stands well alone; written like an old-fashioned memoir, it seamlessly blends whimsy with deadly seriousness. Ransom himself comes across as an eccentric, and readers will share his hope that human inventiveness might win out over the soul-grinding war.