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 bought this book on a whim really thinking it looked like an interesting steam-punk novel. In fact, even though it does share a lot of steam-punk ideas; they are mostly limited to it's setting (the American wild west, and it's Victorian era setting) it's actually much more unique than that. Technology in this book is actually almost all entirely magical/spiritual (and unexplained) in origin, with the humans of the story seemingly caught up in a war between two opposing species of spirits?, demons?, gods?.. who take the form of The Line & The Gun.
Explaining here what forms these two sides take would take away from some of the pleasure of the book so I won't, however both sides have a unique way of controlling the people they employ/enslave. While The Gun essentially turn the small group of men and woman who work for them into supermen, The Line takes another tack, enslaving many thousands of men, turning them into insignificant cogs in their machines.
Caught in between these two opposing forces is the character of Liv Alverhuysen who possesses (or so The Line & The Gun believe) knowledge that will turn the war into their favour. Each side sends their people after Liv, and it's this chase that forms the bulk of the novels narrative.
The book is both dense in terms of its world building and atmosphere but at the same time is a total page turner. By the end of the book I couldn't wait to continue the story with these characters in future stories.
Wonderful narration and such an engaging and unusual storyline! The characters were really well drawn, with well developed inner worlds, plus the world building was amazing - completely convincing despite its fantastical conceits. Really impressed with this one!
"best of the subgenre"
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.
"Great characters, great world - best narrator."
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.
"Fabulous novel, awkward reader"
The Half-Made World is wonderful, a brilliantly clever and engrossing reworking of the Western genre into the language of steampunk and magical realism. I was constantly delighted and surprised by Gilman's intelligent ways of adapting the tropes and conventions of the Western into a fairy-tale like allegory of civilization and colonialism. It's a beautiful, complex and thought-provoking piece.
The reader is hard work though, as she doesn't have the warmth or the vocal range for this novel. She only has two voices (throaty and not throaty) and they're not enough to distinguish the characters easily. And her strangely precise, stilted delivery would almost be tolerable if she didn't keep putting intonations in the wrong place. It's quite a struggle to listen to her.
Overall, the novel surmounts the reader and I'm glad I held on, but I'd love to hear a different reading.
"Intriguing blend of Steampunk and Western."
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.
"Great story, fantastic world"
Far surpassed my expectations, I did not want this one to end. Gilman manages to create a rich, fascinating world without testing the reader's attention on mundane details. The characters are well-defined and easy to sympathize with-- highly recommend this story (and now hoping to find out there is a sequel)
"Great Story, did not enjoy the narrator"
I did not enjoy the way the story was told from the perspective of Tamara Marston. Her voice and tone did not match very well to the story itself. I have been wanting to read this book for a while, but will probably not listen to the second if she is the narrator.
John Creedmore by far was well written, a character who I wanted to read more about.
Probably not. She doesn't have the best voice to really convince me of the characters. Her performance made all of the characters seem flat and 1 dimensional. All the characters she portrayed made them seem whinny and on the verge of throwing a tantrum. Her trying to mimic a deeper male's voice in the story was some what borish and left me feeling like she was making fun of them.
I could see it turning into an anime
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."
"Terrible Story, Terrible Narrator"
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!
"I hate to write any bad review to a book"
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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