Though I've reviewed a few books that didn't pan out like I hoped, one of the things I enjoy about writing reviews is getting a chance to read things I might not have picked up for myself initially. I tend to wear blinders sometimes, focusing on those writers and genres I would normally pick up or consider picking up for myself. In the second half of 2011, my friends at ToBen Mikaelsenr Books threw me a curve ball that I wasn't sure I'd enjoy. Turns out I actually did!
The Half-Made World from Felix Gilman merges many genres to define its world, yet does so effortlessly. Sure, there's a little steampunk, a bit of a Western vibe, a pinch of fantasy, and a smidgen of alternate history, but it's not like Gilman put them all in the blender and set it to puree. Each element is gradually introduced, from psychologist Liv Alverhysen to agent of the Gun John Creedmoor, and to Linesman Lowry, agent of the Line, each of the three is seamlessly woven together around a single mysterious character, Liv's patient — The General — and whatever secrets his addled mind may be hiding...
Quite honestly I wasn't sure what to expect from this book. Like many adventures, it begins with the three main characters starting out on their journeys and ends in an explosive way when those three paths meet. And yet the way world elements are introduced — through flashbacks of the main characters, exposition in characters we meet along the way, and then through children's books read along the way and snippets of conversation — it all seems so natural and organic that it gently tugs you along towards the conclusion.
The larger organizations of the Line and the Gun were quite intriguing to me and I only caught glimpses of their philosophies as the story progressed. The Line was easiest to figure out as the embodiment of progress. In this case, it was the railroad line and the Engines that drove things forward. The Gun was a bit more difficult. I believe the Gun falls on the side of rugged individualism and the Western spirit.