The Half-Made World is a combination of fantasy and science fiction set in a Western (Wild West) environment. Half the forces battling in The Half-Made World is set in a Wild West setting and ruled by something called “The Gun”. The Gun consists of demons inhabiting weapons (guns). Humans who take up these weapons end up being possessed by The Gun’s demons and slowly, but surely, they go insane.
The other party of this war is “The Line”. The Line is set in an industrialised environment where steam-engines are possessed by demons and somehow rule the humans in their control. This industrialised world is bleak, colorless and rigid. Both parties want control of the world with humans as their slaves.
Humans, being what we are, seek to control others through supposed control of the demons. Any reader of human/demon novels knows that humans tend to come out with the poorer deal of any relationship between the two. Power is the lure the demons put before whichever human they seek to control. Ahhh, even people with the best intentions can fall for that temptation.
Somehow a weapon has been discovered that might elude the power of the demons and they do like this possibility. Their emissaries are sent to capture the person known as The General. He just happens to be at a hospital called The House Dolorous, a hospital that is not what it seems to be.
Liv Alverhuysen travels west to the hospital. She is from a part of the country where neither The Line nor The Gun hold control and is not aware of what they are and how strong their forces are. Once at The House Dolorous, Ms. Alverhuysen is supposed to help heal the minds of patients. The various parties meet and fates decided.
I really liked the underlying sense of humor in this novel. The Half-made World is well written, and the text flows from one line to the next. I admire that in an author. There is plenty of tension, a good climax and a fitting conclusion.
I like mysteries. Anything from Agatha Christie to Richard Morgan. They’re all the same, in a sense. Some crime happens and the detective (police or private) comes on the scene and (usually) miraculously solves the crime. The route from A to B varies, but in essence they’re all the same. That’s why they’re so fun.
Add mystery to cyber-punk. Cyber-punk tends to be cynical and dark. Altered Carbon sticks to that kind of tone. Maybe the whole concept of having our personalities stored and ready to be placed into new bodies is a theme that lends itself to exploitation and conflict. Imagine what a person holding immense power, such as the leader of a mega-corporation, could do with access to both bodies and personalities. The lure of power is what keeps the “baddie” of Altered Carbon doing their terrible deeds.
When Takeshi Kovacs, former United Nations Envoy and a native of Harlan’s World, is killed on Harlan’s World (humans now live on various planets in our galaxy) his personality is beamed from Harlan to Old Earth (good old Terra) for a mission where his only choice is do or die (or even do and die).
There he is expected to solve the mystery of what really happened to Laurens Bancroft. Laurens Bancroft is a Meth (Methusalem from the Old Testament). As the name indicates, Mehts live an incredibly long time through resleeving their personality into new bodies. Imagine living like that and the effects time would have upon you. I imagine that in order to choose such a path and to stay on it for centuries you would have to be somewhat of a psychopath. Otherwise you would probably go insane from every one else around you dying. Insane or not Mr. Bancroft’s death has the verdict of suicide. The reason Kovacs has been revived is due to disagreement about the verdict. Here we arrive at the who-dun-it.
Takeshi Kovacs is an enjoyable character. His past haunts him and being in a new body takes some getting used to. There is explicitness in Altered Carbon. I don’t mind that, but then I am 49 years old and not 15.
I like that Mr. Morgan has kept Kovacs alive past Altered Carbon. He is a character well worth knowing – complicated.
Sarah’s Key was lent to me by my sister. Serendipity. I found it a page-turner. No question about it. The author manages to switch from present to past without effort. Tatiana deRosnay is a truly gifted author.
Sarah’s Key is about poor little Sarah Starzynski. The Germans come to collect her family. To protect her little brother she locks him in a cupboard and tells him that she will be back in a few hours. Alas. The fates want it otherwise.
There are two time-lines to Sarah’s Key. The first one, of course, follows Sarah. The second time-line follows the story of the journalist, Julia Jarmon, who delves into the story behind a hidden skeleton. Along follows the secrecy behind Jews in France during WWII.
Some truths are painful for a nation to acknowledge. Nevertheless, healing comes through shining a light on both what we want visible and what we want hidden.
The story is wholly fictional, but as Leo Bretholz (Holocaust survivor) says: “The perusal of Sarah’s Key evoked memories of my own experiences during the war in the Vichy zone of France.” It tells a terrible story, one that has happened over and over again in history. It reminds us of how easily we turn our heads from what is happening around us.
French film-adaptation (Elle s’appelait Sarah) in 2010 by Stéphane Marsil (won two awards and had three nominations)