In a world rather unlike this one, human settlers to a new continent found that as they went West, natural laws began to twist and transform. Two sides sprang up: the Agents of the Gun, who are larger than life, and unpredictable, and the Linesmen, who began creating train Engines to serve them and now serve the Engines. Although it's never stated outright, the Gun stands for individualism and chaos, the Line for industry, standardization and hierarchy. They battled throughout the western territories and Rim, destroying everything in their wake. This is the tale of Harry Ransom, as collected by former newspaperman Elmer Merrial Carson. Ransom is a self-made man, who invented a new form of energy creation called the Ransom Process. After trying unsuccessfully to sell it, Ransom is caught in a firefight with an Agent of the Gun and uses the Process to kill the Agent and destroy the town. From then on, he is a fugitive, sought by all sides of the wars.
This is mostly set after [b:The Half-Made World|8198773|The Half-Made World|Felix Gilman|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1312035395s/8198773.jpg|13045676], with appearances by Dr. Liv Alverhuysen (former psychiatric patient turned psychiatrist) and John Creedmoor (former Agent of the Gun). Ransom is an engaging character, but his patter grows tiresome after a while, especially once it becomes clear that the plot will forever be a tangle, without particular villains or heroes, without goals or anything in the way of a climax. The book just sort of peters out. The world building is very interesting, a fantastical deconstruction of 19th century views, but the book was just too disorganized to engage me.