Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman

Book Details
The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman
Hardcover, 480 Pages
2010, Tor Books
ISBN: 0765325527

A fantastical reimagining of the American West which draws its influence from steampunk, the American western tradition, and magical realism

The world is only half made. What exists has been carved out amidst a war between two rival factions: the Line, paving the world with industry and claiming its residents as slaves; and the Gun, a cult of terror and violence that cripples the population with fear. The only hope at stopping them has seemingly disappeared—the Red Republic that once battled the Gun and the Line, and almost won. Now they’re just a myth, a bedtime story parents tell their children, of hope.

To the west lies a vast, uncharted world, inhabited only by the legends of the immortal and powerful Hill People, who live at one with the earth and its elements. Liv Alverhyusen, a doctor of the new science of psychology, travels to the edge of the made world to a spiritually protected mental institution in order to study the minds of those broken by the Gun and the Line. In its rooms lies an old general of the Red Republic, a man whose shattered mind just may hold the secret to stopping the Gun and the Line. And either side will do anything to understand how.

What stood out in The Half-Made World for me was the characters. Liv was an amazingly deep character. At face value, she's a psychologist interested in studying the minds of the mentally ill, which is interesting in itself. What makes her all the more fascinating is her backstory - everything that lead up to her treating patients. Creedmoor's non-static personality, the way he volleys back and forth trying to find himself all his life makes him interesting as well. His constant struggle against his master shows he's more than just a bad guy living a bad guys life. Lowry, as part of The Line, has a very different background than these other two main characters. His rigid upbringing and overall personality make him difficult to like, but even he seems to struggle with what is expected of him. By far, the most enigmatic character is the General, who's mind has been lost, but still holds the key to victory.

The world itself was a little confusing. I found it hard to grasp exactly how the world was half-made. It seems like the unpopulated west at first glance. As things went on, it becomes clear that part of the world is shifting, changing, trying to decide what it is going to become. This is kind of a foreign concept that I couldn't really picture. Added to that, hillfolk - faerie type people, that have the ability to come back from the dead. This addition seemed out of place, but when taking into account The Line with it's immortal engines and The Gun with it's possessed weapons, the idea of magical hillfolk don't seem too far flung.

The overall plot was interesting, but the focus on the seemingly never ending war was lost on me. War, in any form, even with fantasy aspects, is in no way my thing. The first half of the book, with Liv's departure from civilization, Creedmoor's rejoining the fold of The Gun and Lowry's rise in position with The Line, was gripping. Once the chase was on, with everyone trying to get the information locked in the general's mind, I started loosing interest. Liv, Creedmoor and the General stumbling around the undeveloped portion of the world for a huge amount of time was both confusing and dull. There was a noticeable lack of resolution at the end of the book that made me wonder what the point of the novel really was.

The Half-Made World is a long, very involved book and completely unlike anything I've ever read before. It started out fantastic, but lost me about halfway through. This book may be better for those who either have an interest in the war background of the story or those who can better imagine the half-made portion of the world than I could.


Felix Gilman's

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