Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Book Reviews: From political histories to bad comics, to bad comics of political histories. And the occasional rant about fiction and writing.

Mimsy Review: Fevre Dream

Reviewed by Jerry Stratton, October 7, 2012

“But mostly there was force in those eyes, terrible force, a strength as relentless and merciless as the ice that had crushed Marsh’s dreams. Somewhere in that fog, Marsh could sense the ice moving, slow, so slow, and he could hear the awful splintering of his boats and all his hopes.”

Vampire slavery, fast ships, and broken tropes. And sorrow, and happiness. Fevre Dream is a very good book, well worth reading.

RecommendationPurchase Now!
AuthorGeorge R. R. Martin’s Official Website
Length461 pages
Book Rating8
Fevre Dream: Cover of the 2004 Bantam Spectra mass market paperback of George R. R. Martin’s Fevre Dream.; vampires; fantasy

I bought Fevre Dream because George R. R. Martin is so much in the news over the last several months due to the television success of Game of Thrones. A one-off book seemed a lot easier to get into than a long-running series, and the idea looked interesting. Vampires, or something like it (the blurb doesn’t specifically say vampires, just “hauntingly pale, steely-eyed”, but the cover does), in 1857 New Orleans.

The TV Tropes page for Fevre Dream lists all of the tropes it uses, but having read the book, just about every one of them get twisted. I was never able to guess where the story was going to go next, and yet every development was right, was what should have happened. That said, because Martin gets below the tropes and the clichés, some of the developments will feel like cheats to readers who want to know how, for example, the chase scene ends. I don’t think it could ever be made into a movie. The temptation to unravel the twists will be too strong, and the movie will not be Fevre Dream.

This isn’t horror, or thriller, or fantasy, or urban fantasy, or vampire romance. If anything, it’s a buddy story, following the two main characters as their relationship blossoms from business partnership to friends.

Abner Marsh is a riverboat captain, down on his luck, as all but one of his boats were destroyed when the Mississippi River froze at St. Louis in the winter of 1856-57. Joshua Anton York comes to St. Louis with a deal that is far too good to be true; Abner doesn’t jump at it, he tells York that the deal is far too good to be true, and tries to talk the man out of it. This impresses York enough not to lie—but also not to tell the truth.

“You have been honest with me, Captain Marsh. I will not repay your honesty with lies, as I had intended. But I will not burden you with the truth, either. There are things I cannot tell you, things you would not care to know. Let me put my terms to you, under these conditions, and see if we can come to an agreement. If not, we shall part amiably.”

From this beginning, Captain Marsh gets a steamboat that puts every other boat on the river to shame: the Fevre Dream, named after the Fevre River that ran past his home town of Galena. York doesn’t like the name at first, but one of his associates whispers to him, and he agrees.

And so mystery piles upon mystery until Marsh can’t hardly hold it in. And by that point, I wasn’t holding it in either—I was taking every spare moment between working and writing to steam through the pages. This is a fine book, and a fine story, and well worth reading.

If you enjoyed Fevre Dream…

For more about vampires, you might also be interested in Blade, Salem’s Lot, World of Darkness, and Vampires of York.