I was surprised when I finished this book to realise it was a fantasy masterwork rather than a sci fi masterwork, if anything it bares striking similarities to "I Am Legend", at least in its portrayal of vampires as something other than reanimated corpses or cursed undead.
While the existence of vampires, their possible reconciliation with mankind or continued existence as predators with dillusions of grandeur or supremacy, is essential to the plot it is also a spellbinding tale about Abner Marsh, unlikely and accidential hero, man of his word, riverboat captain and in some ways "everyman".
Marsh doesnt have any strong opinions about slavery, politics, things of that nature but his direct encounters with the vampires, experiencing debates about superiority and inferiority between mankind and the vampiric other he thinks again about slavery in the run up to what becomes the American civil war.
The Fevre Dream is the name of Marsh's riverboat which he gets as part of a deal with a strange nocturnal mysteryman, it is a dream realised for Marsh and becomes something of an obsession and before the book is concluded the reader is reminded and given cause to reflect in the most brilliant way. Other reviews have rightly considered have a lot to do with friendship (anyone who enjoyed The Changing Seasons, The Shawshank Redemption and The Body/Stand by Me would appreciate this book) but its also about dreams, Marsh's riverboat dream across his lifetime, the dreams and leitmotifs of the other characters, dark and light.
This book proved to be compelling, the pace is perfect, the descriptions exacting and never over done, I'm confident that if you give over the time to reading it you'll find it rewarding. One of those rare books which when you're finished you can say you didnt just read it, you "lived it".
on 30 November 2011
I first read Fevre Dream in the early eighties and on a recent quest to re-acquire the top ten paperbacks of my youth this novel was top of my list.
When you consider the hype for Twilight and Vampire Diaries and what they have done to change the modern perception of vampires, I must say they have borrowed a lot from this novel. The author, more known for his Game of Thrones adventures delivers a completely fresh take on the vampire genre, with a breathtaking story of friendship, horror, mystery and paddle steamers.
So, we have Abner Marsh; fat, ugly, riverboat captain who has built the finest, fastest steamship to grace the Mississippi. He enters into partnership with Joshua York, a strange pale man but with a barrowload of money that Abner needs to get the steamship afloat.
The Fevre Dream carries cargo for a while, but rumours start about Joshua - he sleeps all day, doesn't eat and has strange companions. Abner has his suspicions, but is not sure what to do - Joshua has become a friend and he still needs the finances.
When Damon Julian is invited into the fold, Abner comes to realise what is good and what is bad, and what is pure evil. The friendship stutters, rekindles, and the emotions run high all through the story.
Set in the 1850s, this is a tale which evokes so much of the time, the hardships and the prejudices. Much can be read into the setting - the Mississippi runs like a huge artery through the Southern states - and the characters are superbly drawn. I thoroughly recommend this novel to everyone, not just horror, mystery and supernatural aficionados.
on 4 October 2002
I'm ashamed to admit that I had never heard of this book before, or even of its author. I purchased this book purely on impulse. Now I've finished it I can safely say it is one of the best novels I have ever read - in any genre. It is a minor masterpiece that deserves to be better acknowledged (at least as the best vampire novel ever written - better even the Bram's original!).
This book has everything - tons of atmosphere, horror, action, emotion, thought provoking morals and two excellent lead characters, plus one superb villian. Also (and maybe most importantly) Fevre Dream is simply a fun read.
Set around the mid nineteenth century the story may seem a little bizarre - a vampire riverboat captain riding the Mississippi searching for other vampires. But a good book is still a good book no matter what it's subject matter so even if your reading tastes does not usually include horror fantasy please still consider giving this a try. You will not regret it!
on 21 January 2007
No longer re-animated corpses possessed by demons, but a race of beings in their own right. Vampires live for centuries though they cannot survive for long in the sunlight; they are stronger and faster than humans; they possess the power to mesmerize humans into doing their bidding; and once a month, the "red thirst" comes on them, driving them to drink human blood.
One of the most powerful of these "vampires" has just become Abner Marsh's new partner. His name is Joshua York, and he needs transportation along the Mississippi (and a place to hide from the sun) so that he can search for others of his people who have fled the Old World for the New. Joshua believes he can save them: he has invented a drink that suppresses the "red thirst" thus making it possible for the "People of the Night" to live alongside humans for the first time.
But Joshua is about to find out that not all his people want to be saved. Some of them are, in fact, rather enjoying their existence as unkillable blood-drinking demons - notably the ancient, powerful bloodmaster Damon Julian, who may yet bring all Joshuas dreams for his people to a bloody end.
I've always loved vampire stories, and this one is exceptional. Comparisons with Anne Rice are, given the setting, inevitable. The rotting Louisiana swamps are a marvellous setting for any horror story. Martin conjurs up the same humid atmosphere of decay in the swamps and slums of New Orleans, contrasting it with the glittering beauty of the richer parts of the city - and, of course, the steamboats themselves - that Rice describes so vivdly; but he makes his protagonists a lot more interesting. No self-obsessed Lestat here, searching for his own personal redemption. (Or maybe not. You can never be quite sure with Lestat, can you? Anyway. I digress.)
Joshua is trying to save his entire race, searching for a way for them to live with humans before they die out - or are destroyed. Martin has created a whole mythology for the People of the Night, making them the hunted not the hunters, giving them a depth and character that far surpasses any other vampires in books or on screen. Along with some serious horror, lots of blood and the odd Byron quotation, this book becomes a story you're not likely to forget. I for one want don't want to.
First published in the early Eighties this book is one of those in the newer trend of vampire novels where we feel sympathy for actual vampires. A lot of people say this started with 'Interview With a Vampire' but of course they are wrong, this sympathy started in 1845 with the serial publishing of 'Varney the Vampyre', arguably still the most important vampire novel after John Polidori started the craze with 'The Vampyre'. As such this isn't a full blown horror novel, this has an historical element as well as some mystery, and is also a thriller.
Abner Marsh has a dream of building the fastest and best steamboat on the whole of the Mississippi, and when a stranger called Joshua York offers to become a partner in his company it looks like Marsh' dream will become true. But unknown to Marsh, York isn't quite what he seems. In this book the vampires as such are not human, but in fact a different species, and the legends that we know of them are not entirely correct. Starting off in the South, before the American Civil War, and the abolishment of slavery we meet white men, slaves, and those who are free.
With the backdrop of the mighty river throughout this book we read how Marsh and York become friends despite the difference in species, and how there are other vampires in the area as well. With power struggles between York, and another vampire, Damon Julian, a lot is at stake, not only the deaths of humans, but the destiny of the vampire race itself. There are villains and comrades on both sides of the species divide in this captivating book, that ultimately turns into a thriller between good and evil.
The story takes place over a number of years, and as we read this we can feel the differences that the times bring. What with the end of the war, the abolition of slavery, and the coming of the railroads, the river has far less traffic than in days gone past. Alongside this we also have the story of Abner Marsh going on, and his pursuit of his paddle steamer. In all this is worth reading, it is very well written and with its different elements has a lot to offer readers. Probably if you like things such as 'Being Human', then this story should more than satisfy you.
"Fevre Dream" is one of those brilliant genre novels that slipped between the cracks for many years, only to flower again when the vampire craze did. George R.R. Martin wove his own unique vampire mythos, and mixed it in with Southern grittiness, some shocking gore, and a grizzled ugly old man who may be the vampires' salvation.
Steamboat captain Abner Marsh has become business partners with the gentlemanly Joshua York, who pays for the construction of the ultimate steamboat. But strange deaths along the Mississippi lead Abner to suspect that something isn't quite kosher with Joshua, until Joshua reveals the truth about himself -- he and his friends are vampires, who are working to free his race from their bloodlust.
However, the evil bloodmaster Damon Julian wants to keep the vampires as-is, since it allows him greater power over his brethren. He's even got a Gollumesque human serving him before long. Abner's attempts to help his friend lead to disaster, and it will be many years before the two friends have a chance at killing Damon again...
Martin is one of the few authors who actually bothers to come up with an origin story for his vampires, rather than just having these pale bloodsucking people be... there. Without revealing too much, he weaves a haunting explanation for the biological, spiritual and cultural differences between humans and vampires, and sets them up as a brother race to homo sapiens (instead of undead corpses). It's awesome.
Martin's writing is gritty, dark and sometimes grotesque (a vampire using a BABY as food), and even at the best of times he fills it with the grimy atmosphere of a working-class man living on the Mississippi. The only real problem is the timeskip, which jolts us several years into the future and is kind of disorienting, but that's a relatively small problem.
And the entire plot revolves around two very powerful characters, who share a powerful friendship based on trust and a desire to help the vampire species. Joshua is the usual charming gentlemanly vampire, but he's elevated by his powerful desire to save his species from their enslavement to bloodlust and/or Damon Julian. And Abner is a totally unstereotypical vampire-novel character -- he is ugly, a grizzled military man, and even as a sick old man he kicks butt.
"Fevre Dream" is a visceral, gritty vampire novel that takes the time to explore the bloodsuckers' past, and comes up with a pretty brilliant plot in the present as well. A must-read for vampire fans who like it bloody and dark.
on 18 August 2010
Abner Marsh has lived his life on the river. "A big man, and not a patient one," he has worked his way up the chain of command, from hand to mate to captain. As of 1856, he was proprietor of the moderately successful Fevre River Packet Company, named after the river in his home town, and though grossly overweight and alone, Abner was as happy as such a man could hope to be. His dreams were of racing the fastest ship on the Mississippi, the glorious Eclipse, and beating her. But the year since has been hard. In July, the "Mary Clarke blew boiler and burned, up near to Dubuque, burned right to the water line with a hundred dead. And this winter - this was a terrible winter." An ice jam has destroyed four of the Company's steamboats; including the Elizabeth A., brand new at a cost of $200,000 and the apple of Abner's eye. It's been a run of bad luck rather than any fault of his command or management, but it's left the captain near to ruin. Near to ruin, and further than ever from the great liner Abner had hoped to challenge.
Enter Joshua York, an enigmatic benefactor who offers Abner a chance to turn things around. For part ownership of the Fevre River Packet Company and co-command of its most prestigious vessel, York is prepared to pay for the construction of a new ship - and the Fevre Dream, as the captain has a mind to call it, will be "the finest steamship ever to sail the Mississippi." All York asks is that neither Abner nor the crew challenge his behaviour, which, he explains, might seem "strange or arbitrary or capricious" at times. Curious conditions and no mistake, yet to Abner they seem a small price to pay for an opportunity long thought lost to outsteam the Eclipse.
A deal is struck. The Fevre Dream is built; Abner and York set a course for New Orleans and push off into the river, with high hopes and great expectations. Right about then, of course, everything goes wrong.
Fevre Dream is an early-80s vintage Masterwork, and it's a novel about a place and a time. A time "when the river swarmed and lived, when smoke and steam and whistles and fires were everywhere," a time George R. R. Martin evokes so masterfully you'd be forgiven for thinking he grew up on the banks of the muddy Mississippi a century and a half ago. Fevre Dream is also a novel about people; about hope, friendship, trust and betrayal. At the arterial pivot-point of this place and this time is the story of Abner and York, men whom could hardly be less alike, yet find themselves bound together, for good or ill, each with his own impossible dream to realise.
Fevre Dream is also a novel about vampires. A fact which, sadly, is as like in this day and age to throw its readers off as it is to draw them further in. York and the unusual company he keeps don't call themselves vampires, of course, and they're not your run-of-the-mill fang-bangers in any case: surround them with mirrors, as on the main deck of the steamship they commandeer, and you will see their reflections; they don't immediately turn to dust in sunlight (though the UV will eventually cost them a dear price); many of them find garlic to be a fine addition to a meal. Martin posits that they're a race entire in and of themselves, rather than one derived of our own. They feed from us simply because they believe themselves higher up the food chain than mere humans; as Damon Julian so memorably observes, we are as cattle to them.
Fevre Dream is a historical novel, by all accounts. Its period and setting positively sing, Martin brings each out so beautifully. We are with the hands as they venture out to sound the treacherous river's depths; we are in the pilot room as dawn breaks to see the silt-laden Mississippi stretch out, orange-brown, into the heat-hazed distance ahead. Some nights, a thick fog descends upon the river, reducing visibility so near to zero that the Fevre Dream must dock till it passes. And so we see New Orleans, gaudy yet magnificent, the den of sin that is Natchez Under-the-Hill; we hold over in Bayou Sara, St Louis and Memphis to take on freight. Fevre Dream is an exhilarating whistle-stop journey through a period of history alive with possibility, potent with the promise of technology, innovation, progression and revolution. It is a fascinating study of a time and a people and a way of life, all lost to us.
In short, Fevre Dream is a masterwork. It meets the very definition, in fact: it is an outstanding work or art, a spare and superlative piece of fiction amongst a horde of has-beens and hopefuls who can only aspire to its effectiveness. Its only failing a somewhat rudderless calm before the storm that heralds its chilling climax, George R. R. Martin's third novel, near enough thirty years old as of this writing, well and truly deserves its place in the canon of great fantasy. Plotted with such precision as to feel inevitable, parsed by the most spare and elegant prose, driven by a striking cast of flawed yet relatable individuals - some tragic, some comic, some outright horrific - and heady with such atmosphere you can just about smell the river stink and taste York's alcohol and laudanum blood substitute, Fevre Dream is testament to a place, a time, a people... and to the enduring power of fantastic literature.
on 5 March 2012
I'm not a huge fantasy fan, I read horror and I've always been a vampire fan. I heard of George r.r. Martin after Game of thrones and then starting to read the books. Once I realised he'd written a vampire novel I had to read it.
I really enjoyed it. It's original (a few interesting differences to the vampires regarding their history etc not far fetched but well thought of). The characters are vivid and intriguing. If you want a vampire romance look away now this book is proper vampires. Demon vampires who prey on humans, it's original in being set on a steamboat in New Orleans. I won't say too much and spoil it.
It's not really a horror but there are moments- horror/fantasy/ it's own genre. It's unpredictable- a common thing for this author- you don't have a clue what's going to happen next and you don't really want the story to end.
The blurb/ book description doesn't do the book justice. Marsh discovers Joshua York is a vampire but that's not it. If I say anything else I will ruin the story but there is a lot more to it than that, that bit is a tiny portion of the book. The rest is part steamboat information, part york's history and the rest is.. well, read it. If you're a vampire fan missing the old style (non romantic) vampires read it and love it. When I say old stay don't worry this goes beyond the old Nosferatu Dracula type vampires. So if you're sick of old dracula vampires and sick of lovesick vampires this is for you.
on 30 June 2015
I picked this book up because I wanted to sample Martin's writing without getting into the LONG A Song of Ice and Fire series and I was basically pleased. There were some things I loved, the main character Abner for example. You just don't come across many middle aged, fat, harry, warty, UGLY protagonists that often and I appreciated it. Plus, I just plain liked him.
There were also things I hated, the frequent use of the "N-word" being one of them. Now, I understand this is set largely in 1857, on the Mississippi River. Slavery was a reality and no, people of the time wouldn't have used polite language. I get it. But it's still nails-on-a-chalkboard for me to read and pulled me out of the narrative every-time, especially when the word was used in the narration in addition to dialogue I could blame on a character. Maybe it just wasn't needed quite so OFTEN.
The story itself was fairly straightforward, but took enough turns to keep things interesting. I did think it was bogged down with steamboat information, but I never quite reached boredom. There were also some interesting moral questions explored by the main characters, though this was only a small part of the book. It had a great ending though.
Al in all, I enjoyed the book well enough to trust the author with a longer series. I'll happily read more of Martin's work.
on 27 October 2003
Reading throught he other reviews on this page you would appreciate how wonderful this book actually is, but you may be misguided in your belief that this is a 'horror novel'. Simply put, it is not.
The novel features Vampires, sure enough a main staple of many a horror novel over the years, all the way back to Bram Stoker, but they are not the central feature of this story. The central and most important element to this whole tale is the theme of friendship and trust across whatever boundaries you should choose.
Abner is a financially broken man, disasters have consumed his minor shipping fleet and left him with a tired old ship. One night he is approached about building a new ship, one which will be his, but he will not have to pay for, on the condition that the financier is able to stop as often and as long as he chooses on the first voyage.
After a reticent start, the two men forge a partnership which develops into friendship.
The story is brilliantly woven and is a very easy read because, as my fellow reviewers have claimed, the book cannot be put down.
To the end you are gripped and involved with every twist and turn, atmosphere cradling you throughout.
But be warned, if you have a single emotional bone in your body, tears will be shed upon the final page.