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The Half-Made World    by Felix Gilman order for
Half-Made World
by Felix Gilman
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2010 (2010)
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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Lost souls meet and find a degree of redemption in Felix Gilman's Wild West dystopian fantasy, The Half-Made World. It's set in a land that's in a continual state of war between two factions, each driven by powerful demonic entities. The Line steadily covers territory with industry and enslaves those who survive its conquest in a dim, noisy and polluted environment. In opposition is the Gun which recruits individuals from the fringes and empowers them to fight and to heal, sending them on daring missions against the Line (which is incidentally winning).

There was once another alternative - the Red Republic fought for twenty years against both Gun and Line. It almost won, but was defeated in 1878, when its military leader, General Orlan Enver, succumbed to 'a gathering torrent of mad noise.' He survived and was taken to the House Dolorous, 'a hospital for those who have been wounded in our world's Great War' - in body or in mind. General Enver had allied with immortal Hill People, 'deathless reborning creatures', and mentioned this in a letter to his daughter that was never delivered. Many years later, that letter surfaces.

In 1889, Liv Alverhyusen, a doctor of psychology who's addicted to her nerve tonic, leaves for 'the farthest West', answering a call from the House Dolorous. Its patients include the frail General Enver and it's protected by a powerful Hillfolk spirit. The journey is long and dangerous, and Liv is not the only one making it. Creedmor, an agent of the Gun who has been idle for six years, is reactivated and sent to extract the General from the hospital. The Line tasks Sub-Invigilator Lowry with the same objective. Both Line and Gun believe that the General had found a powerful weapon that might give either side victory.

Creedmor succeeds in infiltrating House Dolorous. He defeats the power that protects it, extracts the General and also kidnaps Liv. Pursued by Lowry and his forces, they're forced to flee 'west, into uncharted, uncreated lands.' As this allegorical tale ends, Liv and a now masterless Creedmore have formed an unlikely alliance, intending to complete the General's quest. One wonders, 'What will come out of the West?' A sequel seems likely.

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