12 December 2011

You Found A Scroll: The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman

The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman is a steampunk recreation of a Western. The world is literally half made, the East being like old Europe staid in its ways, while the middle is full of mixed and actively warring ideologies, and the West is unmade, i.e. animals are not animals and land is not land. It describes, through its protagonists and antagonists, the war between the two major factions; the ordered evil (i.e. lawful evil) Line and the anarchistic evil (i.e. chaotic evil) of the Gun, as well as smaller less puissant sects and the Hill Folk the original natives of the land. Although initially I thought these were silly names, the names are actually clever plays on each foes background. The Line is actually a collection of by the book demonic train engines that have subdued men to their mechanical bidding, while the Gun are devil possessed firearms whose bearers (hosts?) gain superlative powers. Due to their fundamental difference in worldview they are at war. In the immediate past the Red River Republic tried to raise man as a self-determining power not needing these greater powers, the Republic has been crushed, but apparently the last General had a secret that would bring both the Line and the Gun to their knees. Into this are thrust Liv a psychologist from the old East, Creedmore a disgruntled Agent of the Gun, and Lowry a dedicated soldier of the Line. Their actions will dictate who obtains the Generals secret and to what purpose it is used.
Gilman has skillfully developed not only a fantastic and original world, but unique, living characters who are taken through a complex story. For me each character had a baseline "likability" which Gilman managed to change throughout the novel. There were some slightly stagnant periods that were necessary to establish more background, but did sometimes slow the story down. Overall an enjoyable and worthwhile experience, I look forward to the sequel.