The opposite of post-apocalyptic--antegenetic
, maybe--and, like the old Rahab story from Jewish legend, the setting is not yet truly created--but nevertheless the narrative proceeds. I'm not sure if it's a brilliant conceit about the writing of speculative fiction to leave the setting rough along its margins (and we are constantly reminded of the writtenness of the setting, insofar as the story consistently refers back to its own "outright myths and stories and the most unplesant sort of fantasies" (119))--or if it's a gimmicky writerly indolence, where most of the story occurs within those margins. Either way, I likes.
The principal conflict involves a chase after crucial information lost for many years, into uncreated space, involving proponents of an industrializing theofascist state and of an atavistic violence cult, along with some mystical aboriginals, members of neutral liberal states, and some leftover radicals in exile, living with "no money at all" in a manner "communistic after the manner of the prophets of the ancient texts" (396). The fascists, the atavists, the mysticals, and the commies all seem to be fundamentalists of a sort, and the first three involve express supernaturalisms--their principals are immortal. The communists base their fundamentalism on their charter, which sounds more liberal than marxist in its several descriptions--in some ways, this is an answer to The Iron Council, wherein a group of dissenters casts off into the unformed wilderness under the banner of emancipation. Despite those descriptions of the constitution, the practices and symbolisms are leftwing.
The conflict does not appear to be resolved at the end, so there's likely a welcome sequel in the works. It is a nifty trick to have the conflict focused on an old guy's memory, render the guy unresponsive, and then leak out details of the contents of the hidden memory, which may or may not be dispositive of the setting. I'm not sure if it's a red herring, ultimately.
The setting, as the title tells us, is half-made--which is something of a drawback. We don't really know what the primary mechanisms of the supernaturalisms are--it's vaguely described as devliry, which is perfectly in character for the describers, but the lack of an authoratitive opinion from the text leaves something to be desired. But perhaps that's something revelatory for later installments. The geography is difficult to chart out, and the timeline is more implied than laid out. But these are the picayune complaints of a reader brainwashed by long residence in secondary creation.
Recommended for those effaced from the history of their country, persons who inhabit an ecology of machines, and ones who, out of a purer strain of virtue, make no deals.