Monday, December 13, 2010

Review: Fevre Dream

Abner Marsh was once a big name in the riverboat trade. However, after a harsh winter freeze wrecked all but one boat in his fleet, he's now just a name that gets associated with bad luck. His luck changes one day in April when he meets with Joshua York, a wealthy aristocrat who wants to partner with Marsh and revitalize Marsh's riverboat business. Never mind the fact that it is an investment that wont reap profits for years, York has his own, private reasons for wanting to ply the waters of the Mississippi.

Despite Marsh's lingering suspicions, he takes York up on the offer and the two become partners. Being the savvy riverman that he is, Marsh knows he shouldn't look past York's bizarre behaviors, and strange rules, but partnering with York means getting a shot at achieving a dream; building the fastest, prettiest steamboat on the Mississippi. To Marsh, it appears his luck has changed for the better, until the Fevre Dream's maiden voyage where he slowly starts to realize that his new partnership could turn his dreams into nightmares.

George R.R. Martin might be best known for writing epic fantasy, but he's no slouch when it comes to horror. Though Fevre Dream was published over a decade prior to A Game of Thrones, many of his strengths as a writer are present here. One thing that struck me as incredibly well done was how Martin makes the riverboat culture of the 1850's come alive. The individual boats, the cities that line the shores of the Mississippi and the river itself are all vibrantly written. Martin creates a setting that brings that bygone age back to life.

The characters of Fevre Dream are also brilliantly rendered. Each character, particularly Marsh, and York leap off the page. Martin's character building doesn't just end at the principle characters, like some other authors, instead he brings life to the entire cast. As a result, I found myself more invested in what happened to the characters, whether it was Marsh, or the galley cook. From reading Martin's other works, I know that no character is safe, and the same can be said for just about everyone in this book as well.

Another similarity to Martin's other novels that I noticed in Fevre Dream is his fine attention to detail. Martin has a knack for bringing inanimate objects to life through rich description, and that is certainly the case here. There were times that I felt like I could feel the softness of the carpets, the strength of the steam engines and even smell the fresh paint on the Fevre Dream. Not to mention all the times the guy made me hungry from his extremely detailed descriptions of the food Abner Marsh ate.

One thing that initially made me an undying fan of Martin was his ability to shock and surprise me. His A Song of Ice and Fire series has delivered a lion's share of jaw dropping moments. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case with Fevre Dream. Through the reading, I always felt I had a good idea of where the story was going, and how things would turn out. I guess I may have unfairly expected surprises given my history with Martin, but there weren't to many here.

Fevre Dream is an extremely well written vampire novel, probably as good as they get, but not quite on par with his other writings. Even though this one isn't as mind-blasting as Martin's other works in the realms of epic fantasy, it is still a damn good book, and easily one of my favorite reads of the year. I highly recommend this to all Martin fans, and anyone else who wants to read a sweet vampire novel, minus the sparkles and eye shadow.

Grade: A-


Justin said...

I'll have to add this one to my list. I've been meaning to check out some of his older stuff like "Dying of the Light" and "Armageddon Rag".

Seak (Bryce L.) said...

I was curious about this and it's still looking good. Martin is the man, no matter what he's doing.

Ryan said...

Hey Justin- For some reason I was skeptical about reading some of his older works, but it is totally worth it. I'll definitely read his other stuff once I can get my hands on it.

Seak- Yeah, the guy is a damn good writer. His characters are so well done, and he definitely made me feel like I was there on the river. Good stuff.