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The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman
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The Half-Made World (edition 2011)

by Felix Gilman

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5333918,919 (3.9)35
Member:psutto
Title:The Half-Made World
Authors:Felix Gilman
Info:Tor Books (2011), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 479 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****1/2
Tags:2013 Challenge

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The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman

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The American West meets steampunk.
Doctor of psychology Liv Alverhuysen is caught between the forces of the Line and the Gun, seeking out the mental wreck who might be the fabled General of the Red Republic, who may hold the secret to a weapon which can bring victory to its user.

( )
  orkydd | Feb 2, 2017 |
Really fantastic, imaginative adventure set in something a bit like America's Wild West of old. Like many Westerns, the main characters are damaged people in pursuit of their own interests, demonstrating occasional bursts of heroism. But unlike most Westerns, people are queer, female, and not necessarily white. And of course, there is the magic: the Line, with their noise-bombs that tear at the mind and their sentient engines; and the Agents of the Gun, whose weapons confer superhuman power but can also control the minds of their possessors; and the indescribable magics of the First Folk, to whom names are anathema. The characters are interesting, the adventure thrilling, and the world absolutely enthralling.

I can't wait to read the next book! ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
3.5 stars

I really liked this one. It's got elements of Manifest Destiny; The Wild, Wild West; The Dark Tower; and China Mieville's Railsea all mashed up into a nice dark adventure.

The story weaves together several arcs, but they all center on what might be contained in a former general's head. On the one hand, we have The Line, an industrial, train-driven culture that consumes and dominates everywhere it goes, leaving behind noise, pollution, industry, and discipline. On another, we have their sworn enemies, the Agents of the Gun, men and women who are controlled by a supernatural committee of spirits (for lack of a better word--they communicate by speaking directly into their agents' heads). On the third hand, we have remnants of The Republic, who had aimed to steer clear of both sides and live their own lives in peace, but who were broken in battle. The General was left for dead in one such battle as the book opens, but his broken mind might have information about a weapon that could decide the contest between The Line and the Agents of the Gun. The chase is on!

Our protagonists:
--Dr. Lysvet (Liv) Alverhuysen, a neurologist from the settled East, who is heading west to treat the General. She'd have been played by Katharine Hepburn, back in the day.
--John Creedmoor, an Agent of the Gun who aims to track down the General for his Masters, but who's also having doubts about this whole subservience thing. He's a cynic, a wiseass, and could have been played by Humphrey Bogart.
--Sub-Invigilator (Third) Lowry of the Army of the Angelus Engine (of The Line), who's also tracking down the General. He has no doubts about his duty at all...he will follow through to the bitter end.

The book follows our cast as Liv heads west to the hospital where the General is a patient, and then into the wilds as the net closes on them. The journey, the building tension, and the three-way battle climax are very satisfying, but the very last pieces of the story seem a bit abrupt and thin, which was a disappointment. I just discovered that there is a sequel, though, so maybe that one gives us more.

As I said, I liked this one very much. The world-building is excellent, as are the pacing and the characterizations. I'm looking forward to the sequel. ( )
  Pat_F. | Jan 27, 2015 |
I'm not sure I enjoyed The Half-Made World. I was intrigued by it, which is something different. There's nothing here to hang your hopes on, to get emotionally attached to: the Linesmen are interchangeable, the Line unpleasant; the Agents of the Gun are as bad or worse, though at least they're individuals; the General is nothing but a tool for the plot; Liv is colourless... Even the Republic is hollow. The narration follows a Linesman, an Agent, and Liv, who is neutral. It really just emphasises that there is no right or wrong: it's a sea of moral ambiguity. I don't even know what moral goodness would look like, in this world.

Creedmore is, despite being despicable, at least an interesting character. His conflict, his relationship with Marmion, his unpredictability and irreverence... If I kept reading for any of the characters, it was for him. He's colourful, at least, even if it's the colours of hell!

The world itself is interesting -- the concept of it, the idea of the Line and the Guns, and the half-made nature of it as you go out West. I was intrigued by the steampunk and Western aspects (though, again, I'm not sure I'd use the word enjoyed). Some of the most interesting things, the Folk, drift around on the outside...

And it's all very inconclusive. Has anything changed, at the end? It doesn't feel like it's waiting for a sequel -- it just trails off.

Despite all of that, which sounds very critical, I was (here's that word again) intrigued: I kept reading, all four hundred and eighty pages of it, which is something. ( )
1 vote shanaqui | Apr 9, 2013 |
A slow burning fantastical wonder

Poised deliciously between wonderful world building and fantastic characterisation this 1st in a dulogy(?) slowly built but the by end left me quite breathless.

The world? Well it's a A wild west frontier torn between the logical, industriousness of the Line and their giant locomotives ripping through the landscape, consuming and twisting all to their needs. Their armies full of grey men, with their mind shattering bombs. Humanities last gasp, the Red Army was defeated long ago and The Guns, chaotic beings who love to possess outlaws cannot hold them back. No one thinks much about the natives who sulk on the edge of reality or are enslaved by the thundering progress of The Line. Into all this, looking for an adventurous new start is psychologist Liv. From the staid East to a home for the war broken. A home that contains an old general who in his broken mind may hold the secret to ending the war.

It’s a wonderful premise, that as you can tell is hard to summarise. The characters that form it grow to be delicious, the pitch perfect tone of the demonic gun, wheedling and cruel in equal measure or the terribly fragile humanity of Liv (one of my favourite characters period). Liv's journey West and the drawing together of all forces keeps you entertained whilst furiously building the story and then goes in unexpected places. Be warned I don't think it hits the wow factor for a while and it always refuses to fall into easy plot tropes of epic battles and glorious romance; passivity with chaos and sudden, very real bravery against familiar cowardice. It maybe a page turner but it’s not nonstop action.

It is the first book is in a series, but the ending is satisfying whilst leaving it wide open for the next. Yet I think whether this books really shines is going to rest on the next book.. I have much invested in this now. ( )
3 vote clfisha | Apr 5, 2013 |
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The General lay flat on his back, arms outflung, watching the stars.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0765325527, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:31 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"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{u2014}the Red Republic that once battled the Gun and the Line, and almost won. Now they{u2019}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. 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"--From publisher description.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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