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I am so very fond of Felix Gilman. Interestingly enough, this is not based on profound love of his two most recent novels. It is based on profound and desperate love of his first novel, Thunderer, which I recall raving about last year, and which was a book about a magical city that actually demonstrated some understanding of the ways that cities work and was just crammed full of really well-done, fascinating things. His second, Gears of the City, had a lot more wrong with it, but it was also a lot more ambitious-- some of the things it was trying are things I'm not sure it's possible to do, which means I only hold it against the book a very little that it didn't do them. The Half-Made World is also an ambitious novel, and one that mostly works and that fails entertainingly when it fails.

The go-to critical word for the novel appears to be 'grim'-- at least, that's the word that has appeared in every review I've read of the book so far (and now, I guess, appears in this one). I... don't understand that. My definition of grim centers around things being even more depressing than is absolutely necessary, more violent, more gritty, more hopeless. This book, you know, it has violence, and grit, but I cannot think how it could possibly have less of that and work, and it never has anything resembling the terrible gray fog of depression that hung over the protagonists of Gears of the City.

The other go-to critic word appears to be 'steampunk'. That one, okay, maybe, kind of. That is debatable. I don't see it, but it doesn't make me wonder what the reviewers are on about. It's just, this is pretty much the same tech level, and in many ways has some of the same aesthetics, as Stephen King's Dark Tower series; I definitely consider them of a subgenre. Steampunk is not a word I'd put to those.

There is not, however, a word as far as I know for 'the mythic strata of this fantasy is a deconstruction of idealizations of the classic Western'. Which is the applicable subgenre. )


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March 2017

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