Sunday, August 21, 2011

Fevre Dream: George R.R. Martin's Vampire Novel

George R.R. Martin's Fevre Dream: Signature EditionAs previously mentioned I like what I’ve read of George R.R. Martin, for the most part.  I was excited to add Fevre Dream to the list.

First published in 1982 and widely available again since the success of A Song of Ice and Fire, Fevre Dream combines vampires and 1850’s Mississippi River paddlewheelers.  Gruff riverboat captain Abner Marsh is given an offer he can’t refuse:  the cash to build and captain a massive new sidewheeler, which he christens Fevre Dream.  The only downside is his investor and co-captain, the mysteriously pale and nocturnal Joshua York.  York makes odd demands and invites a host of similarly-nocturnal friends on board the ship, testing Marsh’s patience and provoking his curiosity.  As Marsh digs deeper, he begins to realize that as sinister as York may   be, there are even more sinister forces stirring on the Lower Mississippi.  

Fevre Dream Martin did his historical research for Fevre Dream’s Mississippi River setting (or at least read Life on the Mississippi).  The rivers, the towns, and the steamships are given enough detail to come alive and make the book something of a historical novel.  Unfortunately, much of the story stays in sluggish, shallow waters.  The vampires aren’t very interesting, and the stakes for defeating them aren’t very high.  The novel progresses slowly yet jerkily, with a long and unnecessary digression into York’s back story and a thirteen-year timeout between acts.  There are a few nice action-packed moments, but tension isn’t maintained and frights are few to none; the whole thing just kind of drifts downstream.     

Fevre Dream isn’t terrible by any means, but it is quite lackluster compared to most of what I’ve read from Martin.  I found myself wishing that the vampires would just go away so Captain Marsh could get on with his riverboating adventures, and thinking that the novel would have been just as good, or better, with natural villains instead of supernatural ones.      

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