The world is still only half-made. Between the wild shores of uncreation, and the ancient lands of the East lies the vast expanse of the West---young, chaotic, magnificent, war-torn.
Thirty years ago, the Red Republic fought to remake the West---fought gloriously, and failed. The world that now exists has been carved out amid a war between two rival factions: the Line, enslaving the world with industry, and the Gun, a cult of terror and violence. The Republic is now history, and the last of its generals sits forgotten and nameless in a madhouse on the edge of creation. But locked in his memories is a secret that could change the West forever, and the world's warring powers would do anything to take it from him.
Now Liv Alverhuysen, a doctor of the new science of psychology, travels west, hoping to heal the general's shattered mind. John Creedmoor, reluctant Agent of the Gun and would-be gentleman of leisure, travels west, too, looking to steal the secret or die trying. And the servants of the Line are on the march.
About the Author
Felix Gilman has been nominated for the John W. Campbell Award and the Crawford Award for best new writer, and the Locus Award for best first novel. He is the author of the critically acclaimed Thunderer and Gears of the City. He lives with his wife in New York City.
Read an Excerpt
THE HALF-MADE WORLD(Chapter THE DEPARTURE)
One fine spring afternoon, when the roses in the gardens of the Koenigswald Academy were in bloom, and the lawns were emerald green, and the river was sapphire blue, and the experimental greenhouses burst with weird life, the professors of the Faculty of Psychological Sciences met in the Faculty's ancient August Hall, in a handsomely appointed upstairs library, where they stood in a little group drinking sherry and saying their good-byes to their colleague Dr. Lysvet AlverhuysenLiv to her friendswho was, against all reasonable advice, determined to go west.
"You'll fall behind, Dr. Alverhyusen." Dr. Seidel shook his head sorrowfully. "Your work will suffer. There are no faculties of learning in the West, none at all. None worth the name, anyway. Can they even read? You won't have access to any of the journals."
"Yes," Liv said. "I believe they can read."
"Seidel overstates his argument," Dr. Naumann said. "Seidel is known for overstating his arguments. Eh, Seidel? But not always wrong. You will lose touch with science. You will rip yourself from the bosom of the scientific community."
He laughed to show what he thought of the scientific community. Handsome and dark of complexion, Dr. Naumann was the youngest of the Faculty's professors and liked to think of himself as something of a radical. He was engaged in a study of the abnormal or misdirected sexual drive, which he regarded as fundamental to all human activity and belief.
Liv smiled politely. "I hope you'll write to me, gentlemen. There are mail coaches across the mountains, and the Line will carry mail across the West."
"Hah!" Dr. Naumann rolled his eyes. "I've seen the maps. You're going to the edge of the world, Dr. Alverhuysen. Might as well hope to send mail to the moon, or the bottom of the sea. Are there mail coaches to the moon?"
"They're at war out there," Dr. Seidel said. "It's very dangerous." He twisted his glass nervously in his hands.
"Yes," Liv agreed. "So I've heard."
"There are wild men in the hills, who are from what I hear only very debatably human. I saw a sketch of one once, and I don't mind admitting it gave me nightmares. All hair and knuckles, it was, white as death, and painted in the most awful way."
"I won't be going into the hills, Doctor."
"The so-called civilized folk are only marginally better. Quite mad. I don't make that diagnosis lightly. Four centuries of war is hardly the only evidence of it. Consider the principal factions in that war, which are from what I hear not so much political entities as religious enthusiasms, not so much religion as forms of shared mania. . . . Cathexis, that is, a psychotic transference of responsibility from themselves to objects that"
"Yes," she said. "Perhaps you should publish on the subject."
If she listened to another moment of Dr. Seidel's shrill voice, she was in danger of having her resolve shaken.
"Will you excuse me, Doctors?" She darted quickly away, neatly interposing Dr. Mistler between herself and Seidel.
It was stuffy and dusty in the library; she moved closer to the windows, where there was a breeze and the faint green smell of the gardens, and where Liv's dear friend Agatha from the Faculty of Mathematics was making conversation with Dr. Dahlstrom from the Faculty of Metaphysics, who was terribly dull. As she approached, Agatha waved over Dahlstrom's shoulder and her eyes said, Help! Liv hurried over, sidestepping Dr. Ley, but she was intercepted by Dr. Ekstein, the head of her own Faculty, who was like a looming stone castle topped with a wild beard, and who took both her hands in his powerful ink-stained hands and said: "Dr. Alverhuysenmay I abandon formalityLivwill you be safe? Will you be safe out there? Your poor late husband, rest his soul, would never forgive me if I allowed . . ."
Dr. Ekstein was a little sherry-drunk and his eyes were moist. His life's work had been a system of psychology that divided the mind into contending forces of thesis and antithesis, from the struggle of which a peaceful synthesis was derived, the process beginning again and again incessantly. Liv considered the theory mechanical and unrealistic.
"I have made my decision, Doctor," she reminded him. "I shall be quite safe. The House Dolorous is in neutral territory, far from the fighting."
"Poor Bernhardt," Dr. Ekstein said. "He would haunt me if anything were to happen to younot, of course, that I would expect that it would, but if anything were to happen"
Dr. Naumann insinuated himself. "Hauntings? Here? Sounds like you'll miss all the real excitement, Dr. Alverhuysen."
Ekstein frowned down on Naumann, who kept talking: "On the other hand, you won't be boredoh my no. No place out there is neutral for long. No matter how remote your new employer may be, soon enough you-know-what will come knocking."
"I'm afraid I don't know, Dr. Naumann. I understand things are very turbulent out there. Excuse me, I must"
"Turbulent! A good word. If you cut into the living brain of a murderer or sex criminal, you might say what you saw was turbulent. I mean the forces of the Line."
"Oh." She tried to look discreetly around Dr. Ekstein's mass for sight of Agatha. "Well, isn't that for the best? Isn't the Line on the side of science and order?"
Dr. Naumann raised an eyebrow, which Liv found irritating. "Is that right? Consider Logtown, which they burned to the ground because it harbored Agents of the Gun; consider the conquest of Mason, where . . ." He rattled off a long list of battles and massacres.
Dr. Alverhuysen looked at him in surprise. "You know a lot about the subject."
He shrugged. "I take an interest in their affairs. A professional interest, you might say."
"I'm afraid I don't follow their politics closely, Dr. Naumann."
"You will. You will." He leaned in close and whispered to her, "They'll follow you, Liv."
She whispered back, "Perhaps you should travel that way yourself, Philip."
"Absolutely under no circumstances whatsoever." He straightened again and consulted his watch. "I shall be late for my afternoon Session!" He left his glass on a bookshelf and exited by the south stairs.
"Unhealthy," Ekstein said. "Unhealthy interests." He glanced down at Liv. "Unhealthy."
"Excuse me, Dr. Ekstein."
She stepped around him, exchanged a polite good luck, good luck to you, too, with a gray-haired woman whose name she forgot, passed through a cool breeze and shaft of dusty afternoon sunlight that entered through the oriel window, heard and for nearly the last time was delighted by the sound of the peacocks crying out on the lawns, and deftly linked arms with Agatha and rescued her from Professor Dahlstrom's droning. Unfortunately, Agatha turned out to be a little too drunk and a little too maudlin, and did not share any of Liv's nervous excitement. She blinked back tears and held Liv's hand very tightly and damply and said, "Livoh, Liv. You must promise you'll come back."
Liv waved a hand vaguely. "Oh, I'm sure I will, Agatha."
"You must come back soon."
In fact, she hadn't given a moment's thought to when she might return, and the demand rather annoyed her. She said, "I shall write, of course."
To Liv's relief then, Dr. Ekstein tapped on a glass for silence, and quickly got it, because everyone was by now quite keen to return to their interrupted afternoon's work. He gave a short speech, which did not once mention where Liv was going or why, and rather made it sound as if she were retiring due to advanced senility, which was the Faculty's usual procedure. Finally he presented her with a gift from the Faculty: a golden pocket watch, heavy and overly ornate, etched with sentimental scenes of Koenigswald's mountains and pine forests and gardens and narrow high-peaked houses. The occasion was complete, and the guests dispersed by various doors and into the stacks of the library.
The Academy stood on a bend in the river a few miles north of the little town of Lodenstein, which was one of the prettiest and wealthiest towns of Koenigswald, which was itself one of the oldest and wealthiest and most stable and peaceful nations of the old and wealthy and stable and peaceful nations of the old East.
Six months ago, a letter had arrived at the Academy from out of the farthest West. It was battered and worn, and stained with red dust, sweat, and oil. It had been addressed to The AcademyKoenigswaldOf the Seven. Koenigswald's efficient postal service had directed it to Lodenstein without too much difficulty. "Of the Seven" was a strange affectation, initially confusing, until Dr. Naumann remembered that four hundred years ago, Koenigswald hadin an uncharacteristic fit of adventurismbeen one of the Council of Seven Nations that had jointly sent the first expeditions West, over the World's End Mountains, into what was then un-made territory. Perhaps that fact still meant something to the westerners; Koenigswald had largely forgotten it.
Strictly speaking, the letter was addressed not to Liv, but to a Mr. Dr. Bernhardt Alverhuysen, which was the name of her late husband, who was recently deceased; but her husband had been a Doctor of Natural History, and the letter sought the assistance of a Doctor of Abnormal Psychology, a title that more accurately described Liv herself. Therefore, Liv opened it.
Dear Dr. Alverhuysen,
I hope this letter finds you well. No doubt you are surprised to receive it. There is little commerce these days between the new world and the old. We do not know each other, and though I have heard great things of your Academy, I am not familiar with your work; my own House is in a very remote part of the world, and it is hard to keep up with the latest science; and therefore I write to you.
I am the Director of the House Dolorous. The House was founded by my late father, and now it has fallen into my care. We can be found on the very farthest western edge of the world, nestled in the rocky bosom of the Flint Hills, northwest of a town called Greenbank, of which you no doubt have not heard. West of us, the world is still not yet Made, and on clear days, the views from our highest windows over Uncreation are unsettled and quite extraordinary.
Are you an adventurous man, Dr. Alverhuysen?
We are a hospital for those who have been wounded in our world's Great War. We take those who have been wounded in body, and we take those who have been wounded in mind. We do not discriminate. We are in neutral territory, and we ourselves are neutral. The Line does not reach out to the Flint Hills, and the agents of its wicked Adversary are not welcome among us. We take all who suffer, and we try to give them peace.
We have able field doctors and sawbones in residence, and we know how to treat burns and bullet wounds and lungs torn by poison gas. But the mind is something of a mystery to us. We are ignorant of the latest science. There are mad people in our care, and there is so little we can do for them.
Will you help us, Dr. Alverhuysen? Will you bring the benefit of your learning to our House? I understand that it is a long journey, rarely undertaken; but if you are not moved by the plight of our patients, then consider that we have all manner of mad folk here, wounded in ways that you will not find in the peaceful Northnot least those who have been maddened by the terrible mind-shattering noise-bombs of the Lineand that your own studies may prosper in a House that provides such ample subject matter. If that does not move you, consider that our House is generously endowed. My father owned silver mines. I enclose a promissory note that will cover your travel by coach and by riverboat and by Engine of the Line; I enclose a map, and letters of introduction to all necessary guides and coachmen on this side of the World; and finally I enclose my very best wishes,
Yours in Brotherhood,
Director Howell, Jr., the House Dolorous.
She had shown the letter to her colleagues. They treated it as a joke. Out of little more than a spirit of perversity, she wrote back requesting further information. All winter she busied herself with teaching, with her studies, with the care of her own subjects. She received no reply; she didn't expect to. On the first day of spring, rather to her own surprise, she wrote again, to announce that she had made her decision and that she would be traveling West at the first opportunity.
Now she couldn't sleep. The golden watch ticked noisily at her bedside and she couldn't sleep, and her head was full of thoughts of distance and speed. She'd never seen one of the Engines of the Line and could not picture what they looked like; but last year she had seen, in one of the galleries in town, an exhibition of paintings of the West's immense vistas, its wide-open plains like skies or seas. Perhaps it was two years agoBernhardt had been alive. The paintings had been huge, wall-to-wall, mountains and rivers and tremendous skies, some blue and unclouded and others tempestuous. Forests and valleys. The panorama: that was what they painted in the West. Geography run wild and mad. There'd been several with bloody battles going on at the bottom of the frame: Fall of the Red Republic, or something like that, was especially horrible, with its storm clouds of doom clenched in the sky like sick hearts seizing, thousands of tiny men struggling in a black valley, battle standards falling in the mud. They always seemed to be fighting about something, out in the West. There'd been half a dozen depicting nature bisected by the Line; high arched rail bridges taming the mountains or railroads shaving the forests away; the black paint blots that were the Engines seeming to move, to drag the eye across the canvas. There were even a few visions of the very farthest West, where the world was still entirely uncreated and full of wild lights and lightning storms and land that surged like sea and strange beautiful demonic forms being born in the murk. . . . Liv remembered how Agatha had shuddered and held herself tight. She remembered, too, how Bernhardt had held her in his heavy tweed-clad arm, and droned about Faculty politics, and so she had not quite lost herself in the paintings' wild depths.
Now those scenes rushed through her mind, blurred with speed and distance. The House was a world away. She could not picture traveling by Line, but she imagined herself leaving town by coach, and the wheels clattering into sudden unstoppable motion, and the horses rearing, and the coach lurching so that all her settled life spilled out behind her in a cascade of papers and old clothes and . . .
It was not an unpleasant sensation, she decided; it was as much exhilaration as terror. Nevertheless she needed to sleep, and so she took two serpent-green drops of her nerve tonic in a glass of water. As always, it numbed her very pleasantly.
Liv settled her affairs. Her rooms were the property of the Facultyshe ensured that they would be made available to poor students during her absence. She consulted a lawyer regarding her investments. She dined almost nightly with Agatha and her family. She canceled her subscriptions to the scholarly periodicals. The golden watch presented an unexpected problem, because of course her clothes had no pockets suitable for such a heavy ugly thing, nor was she sufficiently unsentimental to leave it behind; eventually she decided to have a chain made and wear it around her neck, where it beat against her heart.
She visited her subjects and made arrangements for their future. The Andresen girl she transferred into Dr. Ekstein's care; the girl's pale and fainting neurasthenic despair might, she hoped, respond well to Ekstein's gruff cheerfulness. The Fussel boy she bequeathed to Dr. Naumann, who might find his frequent sexual rages interesting. With a satisfying stroke of her pen, she split the von Meer twinswho suffered from cobwebbed and romantic nightmaressending one girl to Dr. Ekstein and the other to Dr. Lenkman. An excellent idea, as they only encouraged each other's hysteria. She wondered why she hadn't done it years ago! The Countess Romsdal had nothing at all wrong with her, in Liv's opinion, other than being too rich and too idle and too self-obsessed; so she thought Dr. Seidel might as well humor her. She gave Wilhelm and the near-catatonic Olanden boy to Dr. Bergman. She sent sweet little Bernarda, who was scared of candles and shadows and windows and her husband, to a rest cure in the mountains. As for Maggfrid . . .
Maggfrid came crashing into her office, late in the afternoon. He never understood to knock. The shock made her spill ink on her writing desk. He was in tears. "Doctoryou're leaving?"
She put down her pen and sighed. "Maggfrid, I told you I was leaving last week. And the week before that."
"They told me you were leaving."
"I told you I was leaving. Don't you remember?"
He stood there dumbly for a moment, then hurried over and began to mop at her desk with his sleeve. She put her hand on his arm to stop him.
He was nearly a giant. His huge hands were scarred from a multitude of small accidentshe didn't have the sense to look after himself properly. Someone who didn't know him might have found him terrifyingin fact, he was gentle and as loyal as a dog. Maggfrid was her first subject and, in a manner of speaking, her oldest friend.
Maggfrid's condition was congenital. His own blood had betrayed him. Sterile, he was the last of a line of imbeciles. Liv had found him sweeping the stone floors of the Institute in Tuborrhen, where she herself had spent some years in a high white-walled room, in a fragile state, after the death of her mother. He'd been kind to her then. Later, when she was stronger, he'd been happy to be her test subject; he was always simple and eager to please. He would answer questions for hours with his brow furrowed with effort. He bore even the more intrusive physical examinations without complaint. There were three ugly scars across his bald head, and a burn from a faulty electroplate, but he didn't mind. She couldn't heal himshe had quickly realized he was beyond mendingbut he'd provided subject matter for a number of successful monographs, and in return she'd found him work sweeping the floors of August Hall.
"You'll be fine, Maggfrid. You hardly need me anymore."
He began mopping up the ink again. "Maggfrid, no . . ."
She couldn't stop him. She watched him work. He scrubbed with intense determination. It occurred to her that she could get up, walk away, lock the office behind her, and he might remain standing there, implacably scrubbing in the darkness. It was a sad thought.
Besides, she might need a bodyguard; she would need someone to carry her bags. It was even possible that fresh air, adventure, new scenery would do him good. It was certainly what she needed.
She put a hand on his arm again. "Maggfrid: Have you ever wanted to travel?"
It took nearly a minute for his big pale face to break into a grin; and then he lifted her from behind her desk and spun her like a child, until the room was a blur and she laughed and told him to let her down.
She spent her very last day at the Faculty on the banks of the river. She sat next to Agatha on an outstretched blanket. They fed the swans and discussed the shapes of clouds. Their conversation was a little forced, and Liv wasn't at all sorry when it drifted away, and for a while they sat in silence.
"You'll have to a buy a gun," Agatha said quite suddenly.
Liv turned to her, rather shocked, to see that Agatha was smiling mischievously.
"You'll have to buy a gun, and learn to ride a horse."
Liv smiled. "I shall come back quite battle-scarred."
"With terrible stories."
"I shall never speak of them."
"Except when drunk, when you'll tell us all stories of the time you fought off a dozen wild Hillfolk bandits."
"Two dozen! Why not?"
"No student will ever dare defy you again."
"I shall walk with a limp, like an old soldier."
"You will" Agatha fell silent.
She reached into her bag and took out a small red pocket-sized pamphlet, which she handed solemnly to Liv.
According to its cover, it was A Child's History of the West, and it had been published in somewhere called Morgan Town, in the year 1856.
Its pages were yellow and crumblinghardly surprising, given that it was several years older than Liv herself. Its frontispiece was a black-and-white etching of a severe-looking gentleman in military uniform, with dark features, a neat white beard, a nose that could chop wood, and eyes that were somehow at once fierce and sad. He was apparently General Orlan Enver, First Soldier of the Red Valley Republic and the author of the Child's History. Liv had never heard of him.
"I'm afraid it's the only book I could find that says anything about where you're going at all," Agatha said.
"This is from the library."
Agatha shrugged. "Steal it."
"Really, Liv, it's hardly the time for you to worry about that sort of thing. Take it! It may be useful. Anyway, we can't send you off with nothing but that horribly ugly watch."
Agatha stood. "Be safe," she said.
Agatha turned quickly and walked off.
Grunting, Maggfrid heaved up Liv's heavy cases onto the back of the coach. The horses snorted in the cold morning air and stamped the gravel of August Hall's yard. The Faculty was still sleepingapart from the coach and the horses and a few curious peacocks, the grounds were empty. Liv and Agatha embraced as the coachman stood by, smoking. Liv hardly noticed herself boarding the vehicleshe'd taken four drops of her nerve tonic to ensure that fear would not sway her resolve, and she was therefore somewhat distant and numb.
The coachman cracked the whip and the horses were away. The die was cast. Liv's heart pounded. Balanced on her lap were the Child's History of the West, the ugly golden watch, and a copy of the most recent edition of the Royal Maessenburg Journal of Psychology. She found all three of them rather comforting. Maggfrid sat beside her with a frozen smile on his face. Gravel crunched, the lindens went rushing past, the Faculty's tall iron gates loomed like a mountain. Agatha gathered up her skirts and ran a little way after the coach, and Liv waved and in doing so managed to drop her copy of the Journal, which fluttered away behind her down the path. The coachman offered to stop, but she told him keep going, keep going!
THE HALF-MADE WORLD.Copyright 2010 by Felix Gilman
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The Half-Made World kept me interested throughout the whole novel. I didn't have one ho-hum moment while reading, not one moment when I was bored. Set in a world that resembles the wild west of America, but isn't quite there, there are aboriginal peoples, who contain a certain type of magic. There are at two main "god" factions who are at war. One of the factions is the Guns, and seems to consist of demon like entities that possess people through a gun. It rides them, telling them what to do, and causing havoc and mayhem, and rebellion. On the other hand, there is something called the Line - which is the other faction. This one has its own type of evil. It's all about machines, and progress and taking over towns like a bulldozer. There is absolutely NO mercy for those who stand in the way and they develop the most horrific weapons that can devastate people and places. This story is told from three points of view - Creedmoore is an agent of The Gun, Lowry is an agent of The Line and the third point of view is Liv - a doctor who is from a nuetrual territory. All three stories converge and throughout, it's clear that all three have some issues. However, I found myself really rooting for Creedmoor, even though he clearly is no saint. I enjoyed his talk, his attitude even though he clearly was working for demons. The two factions are both after the same thing and Liv kind of gets stuck in the middle. I don't want to say anymore - spoilers. But This is a damn good book - with some humor, some thrills, lots of mayhem and some damn good gadgets! As soon as I was finished reading it, I wanted more. Thankfully, Felix Gilman will be writing a sequel
Dr. Liv Alverhuysen, a young widowed psychology doctor is going to the edge of the made world, or close to it. Out West. To help with victims of the four century war between The Guns, The Engines, and Hill Folk. All of the victims including the ones who had their minds shattered. Creedmoor, we meet while he is traveling on a gambling boat. To the edged of the world he is sent by his masters, The Guns, in search of a mad man. Creedmoor's character will have you curious of his history right away. Lowry, a Sub-Invigilator for the Line and servant to the Engines, is sent to extract the General, from the West. Lowry will not stop for anything and will not fail his mission and the only thing at the end of failure is death. This is a hard one for me to review as I have mixed feelings on this book. I enjoyed the blend of demons and guns, the engines and demons (which may be what many consider steampunk), and the un-made world not yet ready for time and so many new creatures - the Wild West we could say. This idea and world was unique to me, and made me curious about the connection of the two. I even liked the idea of the general having a knowledge that could end all, but felt that I never got any more information to move the story plot further forward. I felt it kind of stalled in the plot movement for me. The story telling style reminds me of a similarity to Joe Abercrombie, yet different as it's not as abrupt with battles nor character drawing for me. I enjoyed two of the characters out of the whole cast: John Creedmoor and the General. Yet, as much as I enjoyed reading of the scenes with John Creedmoor or seeing if the General will get better, they seemed to be the only characters I could get into. John Creedmoor and his attachment to the Guns was one of darkness and yet almost feel as he's fighting for something that just might be good. In the end I new more of the world and characters created here, but nothing more of the happenings of the story plot. I might pick up the next book to see if I can find more out.
This is a book that defies easy categorization¿an anti-hero Western set inside a steampunk novel in a fantasy world that uses a metaphor based upon alternate-history settlement of the American frontier? Yep, that's about it. About the only categorizations that I'm comfortable being firm about are "inventive" and "try this if you like any of the above."The inventive part is what struck me the most. In Gilman's epic struggle between the forces of Technology (the bad guys) and the forces of the Dark Side (the other bad guys) and the loser forces of Democracy (not quite good guys) and just plain, decent humanity (a complete also-ran in this power struggle) there are echoes of mythological strains we find in Stephen King's novels. In the colorful, often incredibly able characters that populate the story there's something of Michael Resnick's creations. In the story telling there's something of Gene Wolfe. Yet, none of these evoke a sense that Gilman is being derivative or returning to a well that has run dry. In this respect, this is a must-read if you're a fan of any of the above-named genres. Why then, is this not a 4-star or more story? Despite 480 pages, there's not enough of the story given to us. I finished the book feeling that it was still chugging up the hill, perhaps not to a conclusion, but at least to a resting point where I could say that I was fully engaged and waiting for the next installment. In fact, though I feel that this is likely to be the first of a multi-part series, that's not even certain. The ending could conceivably be The End.I sincerely hope not. Gilman has got too much going here to stop now.
I found the basic premise of The Half-Made World to be intriguing and couldn¿t wait to read it. Unfortunately, I was so unimpressed with the characterization of the heroine that it wasn¿t until the last 50 pages that I actually felt real interest for the story. Imagine a Wild West populated by a mystical indigenous people (The Hill People), add demon-possessed guns (The Gun) that use humans as assassins and huge scary sentient engines (The Line) that control humans like ants and you have The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman. The Line and The Gun have been warring for years. The known world in the east is slowly being devoured by The Line, which turns cities into little more than factories. This is the setting for the story that starts with a General of the Red Republic (rebels for a new world) becoming a victim of a Line noise bomb. Liv Alverhuysen is the psychologist tasked with helping the General recover enough memory to spill a devastating secret given to him by The Hill People. But first she must journey to a hospital that is at the edge of the known world. For an adventurous psychologist Liv is a surprisingly lackluster character. It¿s never entirely clear why she accepts a dubious position in what amounts to an asylum located on the other side of the world. She doesn¿t seem at all emotionally connected to the war. Her desire to leave everything she knows is only vaguely referred to as some kind of wanderlust. Despite this, I had high hopes for her. I ended up disappointed though because I was never able to get a sense of her personality. She has a devotion to her sense of duty, which gives her some spine, but when things get stressful she adds a few drops of her ¿tonic¿ and all is well. Most of the middle of the book is spent on her journey to the hospital. The story bogs down quite a bit here as she spends more time reacting to things than actually precipitating events. It wasn¿t until John Creedmore, agent of The Gun extraordinaire, entered the story that I started to care what happens. He¿s selfish, pompous and has delusions of grandeur but ultimately likable. He knows he is not a good guy. The spirit-possessed gun that commands him to kill controls him and he likes the thrill of the hunt but deep down he wants to be a hero. He wants redemption. When he obeys his ¿master¿ it is with an irreverence that is endearing. However, I found it mildly annoying that the most important character to the story, the General, was absolutely boring. For the entire novel he has severely diminished mental capacity and seems little more than a prop. The last 50 pages or so are mildly exciting and the ending takes the story in a new direction but I¿m not quite sure if I can recommend it. I thought this story suffered quite a bit in it's characterizations (with one exception) so it was a difficult read for me.
This was an Early Reviewer book. The Half-Made World paints a gritty and grim picture of a world where our worst traits come to life in the form of demons . It's a world whose landscape is marred by the war being fought between Line - Engines which have minds, needs and desires of their own - and Gun - whose Agents are made supernaturally strong and long-lived and enslaved in order to dedicate their lives to stopping the Line from taking over the world.We are introduced to this war through the eyes of someone who grew up and lived in the 'civilized' or fully-made part of the world. She, on a whim, decides to go westward because she's found her life staid and dull. And she sees an opportunity to learn from those broken in minds by the fearsome weapons of the Line.The world-building in Half-Made World is terrific. The Reader is drawn into the created reality and immersed in it fully. It's believable, in that it portrays the realities of the miseries wrought by men (or demons) determined to war until the bitter end.My only complaint is that I thought the characterization was light. We're never allowed to care enough about any of the major characters. It's as if we are only observers watching their struggle, and never allowed to understand them enough to make an emotional connection to them. This seems purposeful, But as someone who needs that emotional connection to a protagonist, I thought it limiting.Even so, I found the book compelling. I wanted to solve the mysteries of this world and of its demons. I wanted to traipse through the unmade portion of the world to its wild and unknown end. Mostly, I wanted to discover the mystery of the one weapon, or thought, or idea that might, possibly, bring an end to war.
Pretty decent overall, found the ending disappointing. Far and away the best thing about the book was the demonic cowboys. More demonic cowboys please.
The Half-Made World kept me interested throughout the whole novel. I didn't have one ho-hum moment while reading, not one moment when I was bored.Set in a world that resembles the wild west of America, but isn't quite there, there are aboriginal peoples, who contain a certain type of magic. There are at two main "god" factions who are at war. One of the factions is the Guns, and seems to consist of demon like entities that possess people through a gun. It rides them, telling them what to do, and causing havoc and mayhem, and rebellion. On the other hand, there is something called the Line - which is the other faction. This one has its own type of evil. It's all about machines, and progress and taking over towns like a bulldozer. There is absolutely NO mercy for those who stand in the way and they develop the most horrific weapons that can devastate people and places.This story is told from three points of view - Creedmoore is an agent of The Gun, Lowry is an agent of The Line and the third point of view is Liv - a doctor who is from a nuetrual territory. All three stories converge and throughout, it's clear that all three have some issues. However, I found myself really rooting for Creedmoor, even though he clearly is no saint. The two factions are both after the same thing and Liv kind of gets stuck in the middle.I don't want to say anymore - spoilers. But This is a damn good book - with some humor, some thrills, lots of mayhem and some damn good gadgets! As soon as I was finished reading it, I wanted more. Thankfully, Felix Gilman will be writing a sequel.
The Half-Made World is a handsome book. The cover is made to look old - yellowed and mildewy - with a man flying a stramnge winged contraption on top. This clues one in that there might be a steampunky adventure inside. And there is a bit. I must also comment on and compliment the layout of the book - the typesetting is attractive and a good size for easy reading. I like books with chapter titles, and this has them in a very attractive layout. This may seem like a minor point, but here I believe it enhances the story.The Half-Made World is more wild western than anything, an alternate-world dystopia mixed with some supernatural fantasy. The prologue of the story pulled me right in, but the initial chapter then put me off a slight bit with our introduction to one of the main characters, Dr. Liv Alverhuysen. Her colleagues are a bit annoying. She is leaving her safe world to go west into the unknown and presumably adventure, and a quest. Unfortunately as the book progressed I could never identify strongly with her or her motivations. That said, I liked this novel but didn't love it. I found myself disappointed that this seems to be a half-made book. Clearly this is part of a larger story and I don't automatically count that as a strike against, but I want resolution within a book of the story at hand.Personally I'd like to read more about this world - a prequel perhaps more than anything else. So, I can recommend this story with reservations as noted. I give this book props for inventiveness as well. I received this book as part of the early reviewers program, but I do not believe that influenced my review.
If a book is part of a series, shouldn't the cover say so? A fun, great read begins fantastically, then that has one of the slowest and middling middles ever, moves into a strong, redemptive finish but then dies miserably with a terribly weak and unresolved finale. A great world filled with demon-powered gunslingers, mechanical bureaucrat armies, wild creatures all against the sprawling backdrop of a three-sided civil war in the Old West. So much potential, but it's unfortunately a half-baked book.
The Half-Made World is neither steampunk, nor alternate history, and is only a western in spirit. Instead it is a highly original and compelling fantasy story, which I can only hope breathes new life in an increasingly stulted genre. The closest comparisons I can think of are: The Dark Tower series, which it exceeds, and The Book of the New Sun, to which it aspires. As original as the setting is, the book's strength is its characters, who firmly anchor the story in reality. The world itself may frustrate some readers, though it is a landscape well painted, the author does not go into great detail of the how and why things are as they are. That is a good thing; instead of bogging down the story with convoluted rationalizations, we see the world as his characters do. Except for one passing reference to alternate universes, there is no connection to our world. Perhaps in a sequel he will delve deeper into those matters, but hopefully not to deeply. Things are not always best tied in a neat blue ribbon.
The Half-Made World by Felix GilmanIt has taken me almost two weeks to read this novel, a pace that is positively sluggish for me. Even now, having finished the book a couple of days ago, I still feel like I am slowly working my way through. I was totally excited when I received the book -- the external look and the feel of the physical book are excellent.Gilman's novel is, ostensibly, steampunk -- but that's not really what it is. It is a novel much concerned with both war and adventure -- but they aren't really the point. It is a book chock-full of rich detail and description -- but those are the very things that contribute to the sluggish pace and slow progress. It is a story populated by unique, well-rendered characters -- but none of those characters really speaks to the reader in that much-sought relatable fashion. Truth be told, I'm not really sure what to tell you about this book. I was fascinated by it, but perhaps frustrated in almost equal measure. It has an interesting premise and sets up an intriguing world. The characters and factions are heavy with allegorical (or perhaps simply symbolic) meaning; that meaning, or at least the reader's belief that it is present, directly contributes to the our slow progress through the text. I found myself, at various points of the novel, wondering about what I was missing rather than considering what was happening in the actual story. I did not, however, find myself mentally reviewing as I read, which is a sign of a decent book.Obviously, this book shakes out somewhere in the middle. I think it is well made and well-crafted, but the plot, like all of the book, takes its own sweet time. I appreciate that we are able to understand the characters fully as the novel progresses, but there are times when the pieces don't quite pull together, when the reader is left to figure things out. I hate puzzles, especially long ones, and that is what this novel quickly shapes up to be -- and then one realizes, toward the end, that Gilman has left space for a sequel. Bottom line: If you really love steampunk (at its roots -- not just the aesthetic) or the anti-hero, this is worth a read, but something is holding the book back from being a truly great experience. There is a great deal to admire here, but the novel isn't for everyone.
Dr. Liv Alverhuysen, a young widowed psychology doctor is going to the edge of the made world, or close to it. Out West. To help with victims of the four century war between The Guns, The Engines, and Hill Folk. All of the victims including the ones who had their minds shattered.Creedmoor, we meet while he is traveling on a gambling boat. To the edged of the world he is sent by his masters, The Guns, in search of a mad man. Creedmoor's character will have you curious of his history right away.Lowry, a Sub-Invigilator for the Line and servant to the Engines, is sent to extract the General, from the West. Lowry will not stop for anything and will not fail his mission and the only thing at the end of failure is death.This is a hard one for me to review as I have mixed feelings on this book. I enjoyed the blend of demons and guns, the engines and demons (which may be what many consider steampunk), and the un-made world not yet ready for time and so many new creatures - the Wild West we could say. This idea and world was unique to me, and made me curious about the connection of the two. I even liked the idea of the general having a knowledge that could end all, but felt that I never got any more information to move the story plot further forward. I felt it kind of stalled in the plot movement for me. The story telling style reminds me of a similarity to Joe Abercrombie, yet different as it's not as abrupt with battles nor character drawing for me.I enjoyed two of the characters out of the whole cast: John Creedmoor and the General. Yet, as much as I enjoyed reading of the scenes with John Creedmoor or seeing if the General will get better, they seemed to be the only characters I could get into. John Creedmoor and his attachment to the Guns was one of darkness and yet almost feel as he's fighting for something that just might be good. In the end I new more of the world and characters created here, but nothing more of the happenings of the story plot. I might pick up the next book to see if I can find more out.
After the first few pages I knew I was going to enjoy this book. Love me some steampunk! Western steampunk too!The Gun and the Line are in constant conflict and just us ordinary folk are caught in the middle just trying to make a world out in the wild west.Do you like magic, demons, and all around good storytelling?Get it!
I am not in love with this book. I enjoyed reading it and I do recommend it, but I was left not fully satisfied. I am not sure what it is about the story that left me wanting more. I think it was not that I needed to know more about the world since that would have destroyed the mystery that makes for a good fantasy, but perhaps to know more about the characters so I could love them as characters rather than tropes.
Weird steampunkish novel where the West is a land where physical laws break down more and more the further west you go. In the more settled areas of the West, two demonic forces are fighting a continual war. The anarchic Gun, whose demons inhabit weapons that are carried by bearers who are given superhuman powers, and the Line, whose demons inhabit train engines and who spread industrialization and uniformity across the lands they control. When both sides learn that a general of the defunct Red Valley Republic, which defied both sides, may still be alive they send their agents to capture him. A psychologist from the East, Liv Alverhuysen, who has come to the West to work in a sort of veteran's hospital, and who is caring for the general becomes caught up in trying to protect him from both sides.This is one of the more interesting and original books that I have read in a while. The taming of the West becomes a literal thing as the Line spreads across the land, assimilating as it goes, and seeming to fix the world into a more static form. On the other side, much of the book is from the point of view of an agent of the Gun, John Creedmoor, who is an entertaining character. The battles between the sides bring in plenty of action along with the allegory. My main issue with the book is that, although it is not advertised as such, it seems to be the first part of a longer story and has a very inconclusive ending. I will look forward to the next book, but it would have been nice to expect only part of a story from the start.
This is a very good novel, exploring themes of the frontier - the dehumanization of industry and railroads vs. the outlaws, murderers, and thieves, with a distant dream of democracy and the Republic just beyond reach. Plus, whip-cracking action and adventure with tightly drawn characters. Hard to recommend this highly enough.
It is a struggle to read. There just arent enough exciting parts to keep you wanting to see what happens next when it becomes slow. You get a five pages of interesting read and then fifty pages of mind-numbing-i-couldnt-care-less. I couldnt make it past 300 nook pages...and it was a constant struggle to get that far. I really wanted to like it, as I love the genre, but no such luck.
I loved the old west and new world blend
I couldn't put it down.