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Stop Making Sense

I read anything that's nailed down, or even just moving slowly. Cereal boxes, candy wrappers, all genres, etc., and I don't always have much time for arbitrary distinctions like literary fiction vs. genre fiction.

Dark Adventure in the Weird West...

The Half-Made World - Felix Gilman

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.