Gilman taps into the ever-reinventing themes of the tragic hero in the The Half-Made World, a steampunk/new weird western-style epic. The plot follows the stories of Lowry, a Sub-Invigilator (Third Class) of the Line, Creedmoor, an Agent of the Gun and Dr. Liv Alveruysen, a psychologist who travels into the unmade West after the death of her husband. The competing factions of the Line and Gun unambiguously serves as metaphors for progress and individualism. But Gilman treads lightly with such metaphors and does not let his story become weighed down with moralizing. Though sympathies easily drift too the rogue romantic gunslinger Creedmoor, he is far from sympathetic. Murder, betrayal and ambition are always good for compulsive reading and no one is above such acts in the wild, wild unmade West. None of the characters fall into easily pegged stereotypes.“We did not come to the service of the Gun because we wanted to enjoy victory, but because we wanted to lose magnificently.” Pg. 288.
At almost 500 pages, one would think Gilman would delve into some intensive world building. Not so. The story moves rapidly and the world nicely unfolds throughout. Part of me would have liked more details about this Half-Made World, but that’s a testament to Gilman’s ability that the reader is left wanting more but not feeling cheated by the amount given. Gilman’s contribution to the genre (however one chooses to define it) is fresh, well told and enviably creative.