George R. R. Martin, Fevre Dream (1982)

George R. R. Martin… whether he finishes Song of Ice and Fire or not, his series gave me a few good moments and changed the way I look at epic fantasy. It was, at times, a painful experience, and the Red Wedding made me very, very angry. Years later, watching Arya in the opening episode of season seven, I got my revenge… I’m not really that bitter about the delays, I don’t think final instalments could reach the level of books 1-3, anyway. I’ll read them, I’ll get hardcovers to match my copies of the previous ones, but I’m philosophical about it. I even agree with Gaiman that Martin is not my bitch (there is also a song).

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Martin is not only aSoIaF author. As far as I’m concerned, his other works are a bit of hit and miss. I did not care for The Armageddon Rag, I enjoyed le-guinesque Windhaven a lot. Shared-universe superhero series Wild Cards is very cool, but I’ve read only one book so far.

My latest encounter with Martin is his 1982 350p standalone Fevre Dream. A very good book described by its author as:

(…) historical horror novel about vampires on antebellum Mississippi river steamboats. Bram Stoker meets Mark Twain, one might say, or even Huck Finn Meets Dracula.

Maybe, I’m not sure, it’s been some time since I’ve read any Twain, I don’t see a Huck figure in Fevre Dream, but the atmosphere of pre-Civil War South – definitely is here. Steamboats, New Orleans, slavery, gentlemen and white trash, with an addition of slightly atypical vampires.

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Book’s main protagonist is Abner Marsh, unlucky but experienced captain whose good fortune seems to be restored when he meets Joshua York, rich investor who wants to finance construction of a great steamboat that Marsh would operate on regular basis with only occasional detours. York is pale, cultured, wealthy and prefers to walk by night. Hmm…

Not to spoil too much, vampire community of this universe is divided in its attitudes towards humans (sometimes referred to as cattle). Abner gets involved in a power struggle of two vampire lords, and its results will determine the future of the entire species.

Engaging, finite story, painting a very convincing picture of the life along Mississippi just before the War. Our hero, a flawed but decent human being, learns and grows before out eyes, several other characters are also well-developed and interesting. Especially both the vampire lords. Lets be clear – the morality in this story is much simpler than in the dirty politics of Song of Ice and Fire. Not too simple, nobody is truly innocent, but the good guys are not difficult to separate from the bad ones.

The fight between human-friendly vampires and ones treating us purely as prey to be exploited transparently superimposes itself on the issue of slavery. Just as white people objectify their fellow humans and feel justified by their darker skin, most vampires have no compassion for lower creatures they feed upon. Both practises are wicked products of a rotten society of privilege and obedience that must not survive, one being abolished after the bloodiest war in American history, the other… it’s Martin, so don’t be so sure how it ends 😉 Abner himself goes from indifference to action, first participating in the Underground Railroad, and later serving in the U.S. Navy during the war.

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But maybe I’m over-analysing and it’s just a solid vampire story 🙂

Score: 7,5/10

4 thoughts on “George R. R. Martin, Fevre Dream (1982)

  1. This book is what gave me hope that maybe Martin wasn’t a complete jerk. I first read his Sandkings and thought he was great. Then came the great Game of Thrones debacle and it wasn’t until I read this after that that I figured out the first sentence.

    Of course, I’m back to believing he’s a jerk 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting. Still, not enough to warrant reading – I’m content to read your review instead 😉 I enjoyed the first installment of Game of Thrones and thought the next two were pretty decent. Sandkings were cool as well – but that’s about it when it comes to the good things about Martin’s prose for me 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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