Here is a fantastical reimagining of the American West that 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.
©2010 Felix Gilman (P)2010 Audible, Inc.
"Vivid and accurate prose, a gripping, imaginative story, a terrifically inventive setting, a hard-bitten, indestructible hero, and an intelligent, fully adult heroine." (Ursula K. Le Guin)
"The Half-Made World is refreshingly unlike any other novel I've read. Felix Gilman writes like a modern-day Dickens drunk on rich invention and insane war." (Stephen R. Donaldson)
I gave this 4 stars because it's not quite in the same league as the best contemporary SciFi like "The Windup Girl" or fantastical re-imaginings of the West like Dan Simmons "Black Hills". In the class with other Steampunk books it is a five star. But, if you like all of your stories to be very clear and wrapped neatly you might not like it as much. It's not as straightforward as the typical genre novel. This is the kind of book with an emphasis on allegory and theme with a literary lilt to the language.
I am also tempted to subtract a point for the ending. My impression is that the author is planning a sequel but was to busy literrary pretense to make the convention clear so it seems to be a bit abrupt. But it kept me engrossed enough and was written well enough to let that sloppiness pass.
Stick with this book for a richly nuanced world with compelling characters framed against a fantastic, alternate world. When the characters started frustrating me because of who they were, I realized how deeply under my skin the author had gotten. Bravo! Also, have to say that Tamara Marston is an outstanding narrator. Although I've only listened to a couple of dozen audiobooks so far, she really stands out for her outstanding ability to differentiate between voices without feeling forced or artificial. Can't wait to hear her other work and hope they bring her back for the sequel.
I was quite intrigued to listen to The Half-Made World after reading io9's review that begins with:
"Sick of predictable books that fill your subgenre bingo card with the same subgenre elements over and over? With The Half-Made World, Felix Gilman has blended elements from alternate history, Steampunk, Westerns, and epic fantasy to create something truly original."
It does take a few chapters to get this new world storted out, but once hooked, I found myself quite loathe to stop listening. I hope to read more of the Half-Made World.
I definitely felt as if I was in the hands of someone who knew what they were doing and where they were going and I was happy to be along for the ride. A great re-imagining of the wild west, mixing in mythology, and making a world that felt like a combination of the U.S. west while being settled and Australia. John Creedmoore may not have been a nice man but he certainly was an interesting one. Serving a power that he both craves and despises we follow him on a journey to the very edges of the made world along with Liv, a sheltered psychology professor who has come out west seeking, well, seeking herself and a way to heal.
if you are looking for something different--a story that feels both completely unfamiliar and familiar, that you can't predict where it is headed--then I'd recommend "The Half-Made World."
The only thing worse than this ridiculous and terribly written story is the narrator. I have listened to dozens of audiobooks here on audible, and have never left one unfinished. I made it to chapter 10 of this book, and could take it no longer. The story was so underdeveloped that I felt like it was book 4 of a 4-part series, and I missed books 1-3. Poorly written, terrible story, and a terrible narration. I want my book credit back!
As Aaron from smithville said "I want my credit back!" I have to second that.
The narrator in my opinion is horrible (Especially after having read both of the Johannas Cabal books and then Sandman Slim and even Everything Matters)... This audiobook dragged, in fact, while listening on a 4+ hour ride to ohio I chose to listen to the radio over this due to how... dull... and muddled it became at points.
Most of the characters to me seem very plane and single dimensional coupled with the fact that the book just doesn't seem to flow, I wanted to cry in frustration.
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