The Half-Made World, by Felix Gilman
Synopsis: Two factions war for control of a Steampunk Old West. A young psychologist (Liv) must find and cure an insane old man who’s mind may hold the key to ending the war permanently.
Brief Book Review: An interesting read, but not a compelling one. The super-human powers that rule the two factions are fascinating, and could have been a great examination of how non-human intellects interact with humans, and how intelligences without the ability to directly manipulate the world can still have huge effects by offering humans things they want in exchange… but it was never explored in much detail. The world itself is beautifully rendered, with great locations and extremely cool chaotic environs in the non-Made section of the world, where reality is still somewhat fluid and objects can change when you aren’t looking – and which doesn’t seem to make much difference to anything, aside from making a great backdrop. Liv is slowly stripped down to her constituent parts over the course of her journey, which is a neat concept but doesn’t have as much impact as it should. She doesn’t actually do a single thing of any importance until literally the very last scene of the book. The book feels unsatisfying because the protagonists are passive, rarely initiating anything themselves – merely reacting to this neat world. While it works well as a mood piece, those sorts of works are usually written as short stories for good reason. It doesn’t quite work at novel length. Not Recommended, unless this is exactly your type of book (and you know it if it is).
Club Review: Unfortunately there isn’t a great amount to chew over in a discussion setting. The villains are painted too strongly as villainous to provoke empathy, and the heroes don’t do much to cheer about. The sets are pretty, but there’s only so much to say about that. It has a very similar problem to Permanence – a lot of cool ideas that are great in concept, but without the execution to make them compelling. Merely thinking up a cool idea isn’t enough, you need to do something with it. Even if this is your type of book, it’s more of a solitary pleasure rather than a group discussion piece. Not Recommended.