Thursday, August 12, 2021

George R.R. Martin - Fevre Dream

Abner Marsh has had his dearest wish come true - he has built the Fevre Dream, the finest steamship ever to sail the Mississippi. Abner hopes to race the boat some day, but his partner is making it hard for him to realise his ambition. Joshua York put up the money for Fevre Dream, but now rumours have started about the company he keeps, his odd eating habits and strange hours. As the Dream sails the great river, it leaves in its wake one too many dark tales, until Abner is forced to face down the man who helped his dreams become reality.

Comment: My best friend loves the Game of Thrones stories and movies and while high on her interest for all things George RR Martin, she also purchased this book, written before the books which made him famous came out. I borrowed the book on the idea this was different from Game of Thrones (which I haven't read) and although it had great elements, the plot choices weren't always to my liking.

This is the story of Abner Marsh, a man who dedicated his life to steamboats, in particular those that could be seen in the rivers during the 19th century and that for him were a sign of pride and joy. However, things went bad in a business and he sees himself without enough capital to purchase a better, faster boat. Then, in comes Joshua York, a very weird man with strange preferences for how his orders should be taken. He makes a deal with Abner, providing the funds for their partnership while Abner gave his expertise. At first things go well and Abner feels, once more, proud of his work, but when mysterious events happen and the slaves start with their superstitions, it isn't easy to ignore the signs something is wrong... then, they travel down the river towards Louisiana and an even weirder man is invited to come to the steamboat and everything changes...

At first, I was really enjoying this novel. The writing was compelling, the story was addictive and even though there was a lot of talk about steamboats and engines and many other technical things, I was still interested enough to keep reading. I liked Abner, he acted like a grumpy older man but his heart is one of gold and I could see how his personality and his take on life would be key for the success of the partnership.

Joshua is more complicated, he is a vampire but according to what he says, vampires in this world are heavily influenced by old tales the author has certainly read and researched but he introduced a new element: vampires are born, not made. This means, they are a race like humans and while many don't see themselves as too different except the blood part, for many this means they believe they are a better race and humans are "cattle". This explanation isn't new to me, I've read many PNR stories with vampires and authors have imagined this in countless ways, but I admit I kind of got stuck in this notion they don't have to be the "bad guy".

Portuguese cover

Therefore, since this book moves along to focus precisely on how good and bad vampires can be, with emphasis on how vile the bad ones can be towards those they see as "inferiors", my enjoyment started to decrease. I know the author wrote this in the early 80s, a bit too far from the current look on this type of PNR romance, but I got annoyed at how easy the villain accomplished his bad deeds and how the heroes were unable to counter attack or to avoid the worst case scenarios (secondary people dying).

Until half way though I thought this was even more surprising than what I anticipated but from then on, things stopped being as interesting for me. Thinking about what my friend have told me, I can see the author's need to increase the adrenaline, to add up complex thoughts and situations, where the lack of awareness could mean even worse things, although perhaps not as tragic as a whole as I can remember from what she told me about Game of Thrones. But I thought this would be a fairer fight between good and evil and things were a little more dramatic and unfair (the way I see it) which, in my opinion, could have been avoided.

The end is a successful one, but at what price? I mean, Abner and Joshua triumph but I didn't really enjoy how the story progressed. I was particularly annoyed at Joshua's character, not his naivety after all he went through, but at how easy it was for the author to put him in a disadvantage in relation to the bad guy. It certainly would have gone a lot better for me if he had been a more powerful type of vampire...

All things considered, a great start, some very good elements for those who like the genre and the writing. but to me the second half was a little disappointing.
Grade: 7/10

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