The half-made world Felix Gilman
Spirits are housed in Guns and Engines which war against each other via their Agents in an imaginative retelling of the wild west. Gilman takes and re-forges the tropes of Gunslingers and railroads. The distilled noise of the Engines of the Line take your sanity so the Agents of the Line use Noisemaker as well as poison bombs when they attack. The Agents of the Gun are always losing but never defeated. The people of the East live in the well-made stable world. The people of the West live in the newly made world and to the far West is the shifting half-made world. The Red Valley Republic warred against both Line and Gun but eventually failed. Their most famous general is caught by a Noisemaker but is not killed and just may have a secret buried in his head which both sides seek. He is a patient at the House Dolorous which is protected by a powerful spirit. Dr Liv Alverhuysen has a troubled past but is a proponent of the new science of psychology and goes West to take up a post at the House Dolorous. John Creedmore is an Agent of the Gun tasked with infiltrating the House Dolorous to steal the secret in the General’s head and Lowry is a soldier of the Line tasked with getting the general, and through a series of field promotions finds himself in charge. Gilman has woven a gripping story which seamlessly imports some Western-“ness” without spoiling a vividly imagined world building. He has also taken three very mortal, very human protagonists to illustrate the fantastic story of that world. I loved the world and I loved the characters and how they interacted so I heartily recommend this book.
Overall – Well told tale in a fantastic and fantastically weird world