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Author: Gilman, Felix
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
insights into the functioning of those living in the mythical old and
new world are key to understanding the progression of The Half-Made
World. When Dr. Liv Alverhausen, with a doctorate in abnormal
psychology, who is based in the Faculty of Psychological Sciences at
Koenigswald Academy in the old world, receives a letter that is
addressed to her recently deceased husband, she opens it to find an
invitation to bring the latest learning about mental science to the
House Dolorous nestled in the Flint Hills of the new world. In brief,
she finds the invitation so compelling that she leaves her post at
the Academy to venture into fields new and mindsets as yet
incompletely explored. House Dolorous tends to those who have been
physically or mentally wounded in the Great War, and especially “by
the mind-shattering noise-bombs of the Line.” As the opening scenes
of The Half-Made World reveal the aftermath of a battle between the
Hill People and the Linesmen, in which we see the devastation wrought
by such inventions, we are immediately pulled into the action and
start to feel great empathy for the heroine of this tale. Having a
female protagonist in the midst of grisly and disturbing battle
scenes is a major draw card of this well-written and insightful foray
into the genre of steampunk.
Steampunk is a genre in which the creations of an ‘other’ world are rationally bound together in a way that has both intellectual and imaginative dimensions. The inventions, such as the war machinery that is wielded by The Gun of The Half-Made World, have a meaning and tangibility, as well as possible repercussions, that spread far past the story that is told in any one particular text. Instead, they are grounded in a world of possibility that is likely to have frightening repercussions for our own futures. The tale is the medium in which elements of our increasingly mechanized and automated existence are brought to bear on intelligently wrought and imaginatively conceived characters, so that we are inspired to think about where our own world is likely to end, no matter whether that ending is a bang or a whimper.
With war seeming to be an inevitable component of our human existence, and the impact of the ongoing conflict in such places as Iraq and Afghanistan being felt on our nation as a whole, the central themes of The Half-Made World should be close to each one of us. Felix Gilman, a nominee for the John W. Campbell award and the Locus Award for best new writer, has done himself proud in this outstanding work of science fiction. As such, it is a must for any supporter of the genre.
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