- Format: Kindle Edition
- File Size: 1806 KB
- Print Length: 386 pages
- Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0765338068
- Publisher: Tor Books (6 Sept. 2016)
- Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
- Language: English
- ASIN: B015W3Q3QY
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Customer reviews: 33 customer ratings
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #195,621 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Everfair: A Novel Kindle Edition
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Unfortunately, it all fell flat. We only ever got glimpses of the key individuals' lives and, worse, the glimpses into their lives were often several years or more apart. It was impossible for me to get a real sense of character when only one aspect of they were was focused on. And with such large time gaps it felt like all the character development happened off screen. Worse, because I was only getting glimpses of characters I didn't fully learn who they were until much too late, often confusing who was who.
There wasn't a real sense of plot which isn't a problem because this was the story of a particular country. The problem was this story wasn't properly told. The country, who was essentially the main character, wasn't fully described. I never learnt how the country was actually governed, I never learnt anything about the people who lived in the country except for the handful of characters we met (who generally had a leadership role), I never learnt how the society of the country worked, or the economy or how people did or didn't mix and interact. It always felt like a small village with the central characters preoccupied with their own concerns and enmities. Yet Everfair was supposed to be a large country with a large population. It would have been fascinating to learn more about how it grew and developed over the timeframe of the book.
There was one other thing I didn't particularly liked and this is much more personal to me. There was no sign of magic at the beginning of the novel but by the end there was rather a lot. However, it wasn't the kind of magic that I enjoy reading about in SFF but more of the magical realism variety which is not to my personal taste as it is never explained and seems to be inexplicable. As I say, that may be a minority view and, if the plotting, characters and world-building had been properly developed, wouldn't have been a particularly issue for me.
Everfair is still fantasy story with airship raids and paranormal manifestations and globetrotting spy antics and King Leopold getting his, but the best part for me was that this really sold me that Everfair was a real country, that this is the blood and sweat it would take for it to happen.
The basic premise is that an unusual alliance of British socialists and African-American preachers purchase the Congo Free State from King Leopold of Belgium. (Adam Hoschild's monumental King Leopold's Ghost should be a prerequisite before picking this up.) They do in order to create the titular land as a safe haven for a mish-mash of idealists and those fleeing oppression in America and Africa. This makes for a potentially fascinating, but massive, set of characters, whose collective voice comes across the page as more of a cacophony than a coherent chorus. The choppy narrative voice is further compounded by the brevity of chapters and leaps of time covering a sum of four decades, which make it a bit tricky to keep the entire enterprise clear.
In the end, I kept wishing that I could have gotten the story from either a consistent viewpoint, or at least a steadier pace. One approach would have been to break it into thirds, telling the story from each perspective: one African, one European, and one African-American, but expanding it so that there's enough space to really become invested in the characters. As it is, they flit and out too quickly to really appreciate the subtle nuances of culture they embody, and undergo seemingly rapid transformations that aren't really earned. The story has a rich cast with which to play out the conflict between utopian ideas and race, class, culture, and commerce, but kind of rushes through a lot of this. And when you add in a whole patina of steampunk tech, like clockwork prosthetics, various steam-powered transports, and new weapons, the book just can't stand under its own weight.
I dunno, I guess this all held together for plenty of other people, I just couldn't stick with it -- but I would be eager to read something else by the author. Looks like she's a prolific writer of short fiction, and I wonder if that might be her real strength.
Top international reviews
It’s just hard to follow.
That could be because instead of one viewpoint character, or even two or three (see most epics), or five or six (think Brandon Sanderson, Robert Jordan), we’ve got eleven. They are well-written and unique and fun to read—but even so I struggle to remembered who each one was and what had happened last time we met them.
Add to that some significant time jumps—the book takes place over twenty years, and sometimes a year or more has passed since we last followed a particular character—and they’re in a new place, and a lot politically has happened since then. Technology itself leaps forward—we go from steam tractors to fast dirigibles in the space of a chapter or two, in which the main settlement has also been attacked and had to retreat somewhere else to caves, and we’ve switched character heads…
You get the idea. Really cool stuff is happening, but instead of a single story Everfair feels like six or eight novellas shuffled together. It expects a lot of the reader, and much as I’m ready for mental leaps, for imaginative stretches—that’s part of why we love fantasy—at a certain point the readability gets in the way of the awesome. And bottomline, I found myself less excited to return to Everfair than other books I was reading at the time, despite all the things it has going for it.
So take this for what you will. If you love historical fantasy/steampunk, really diverse casts of characters, or are interested in steampunk imagining some of the wrongs of Leopold’s Congo righted, this book will be worth the work. If that all sounds good, but you’re looking for a book to draw you in rather than having to pull yourself in, it might not be the one.
Read more reviews and see the Top Ten for recent Fantasy at [...]
This is a fascinating, well-written story about several idealists coming from very different perspectives to try to create a free state in African lands once dominated by Leopold II. Aided by steampunk-style alternate history advances in prosthetics, medicine, weaponry, and airships, the diverse cast of protagonists each bring their own special talents to the struggle.
Unfortunately, the unrelenting state of conflict makes it hard to settle into the many moments of personal joy that are delightfully woven into the tale. But that must also be true of any people fighting to establish freedom and equality in a world that either dismisses them outright or abuses their rights as human beings.
The story rotates between perspectives in a third person limited narrative, thereby giving us insight into the thoughts of one person at a time, and vividly illustrating how miscommunication and failure to understand one another feeds social and political dysfunction even in a group where everyone is trying to do the right thing. In light of this, the moments of unity within the story are all the more powerful and persuasive.
Spoiler-free warning: the ending is not a neat and tidy package. If you can't stand books that don't wrap up everyone's story arc, you may feel frustrated.
A steampunk alternate history set on Africa that starts with the horrors of King Leopold's rubber plantations in Congo and continues on through the founding of the nation of Everfair. The book handles racism, interracial romances, colonialism, religious discrimination, and the main romantic pairing is two women--all things that should make this book deeply interesting for me...
But it moved too quickly through 40 years of Everfair's history for me to really get to know any of the characters on anything more than a superficial level. And that is too big a weakness for me.
Once you think you know where the story is going, it changes on you, much like life. This book is a keeper, for sure.
If you’re into hard sci-fi, you’ll feel strung along
Would that we all had a Queen Josina to tell our loves to look for yourself and not be told what you said or did to cause a rift.
Shawl is obviously a big fan of Octavia Butler and has based her writing style on such works as the relentlessly paced "Mind of My Mind". In that book, Butler completely reshapes society around a genetic mutation, showing the reader the step by step transformation, sacrificing character development and depth for the sake of scope. It works because Butler is writing science fiction and throwing out new and exciting ideas with every chapter. "Everfair" promises to do that for a historical setting but fails to deliver in the same way. The much touted setting, the Congo Free State, is never explored. The somewhat scanty Wikipedia page offers more information on the subject and presents a more harrowing and human read. So what we have is simply a fast paced blur of nothing much. Chapters go on for about 3 pages a piece and present us with brief scenes disconnected from any kind of context that would allow us to grow attached to the characters or setting. At one point a character is killed and we are meant to see this as a capital T Tragedy because she is in love, even though said character has spoken less than a dozen lines of dialogue and gone from a child to a young woman entirely off stage. The gadgetry that forms the backbone of the steampunk genre is completely nondescript and does nothing to impact the situation much one way or the other; meaning the book fails on every single front. I can't imagine who this book was written for or anyone who might truly have enjoyed it as anything more than a stylistic exercise.