Fevre Dream (1982) by George R. R. Martin

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I really don’t know where to start. This is a vampire novel. It was written by the author of a game of thrones in 1982. It is easily the best genre fiction I have ever read. It is one of the best novels I’ve ever read regardless of category.

And it isn’t Twilight.

Cap’n Abner Marsh is a stocky riverboat captain plying his trade on the Mississippi river in the late 1850s. In one terrible winter he loses all but one of his paddlesteamers to ice flows. The story starts with Marsh meeting a man named Joshua York for dinner late one evening. York wants to buy into Marsh’s business and build him a new bigger better boat. It is a dream come true. But on her maiden voyage the Fevre Dream starts to build a reputation that Cap’n Marsh doesn’t like. People are starting to ask questions about the strange hours that York keeps and the company with which he spends his nights.

In true GRRM style the story is full of woe, misery and death. one thing that Martin explores consistently in this novel (and many of his others) is polar opposites. How different are humans and vampires? Is the blood drinking all that separates us? How quickly can something turn from beauty to decay, from happiness to sorrow, from life to death? GRRM is always fantastic but something in this novel lingers with you and I think it might be his best work.

Another theme frequently referenced in this novel is the slave trade that was so prevalent in the years before the civil war. It is suggested that slaves and masters is a concept stolen from vampires by humans attempting to exert some control over their short hectic lives. The main character himself would be an abolitionist but “they’re all a bunch of bible thumpers”. this issue is discussed from many different angles and GRRM makes quite a few solid points.

The book also discusses Lord Byron’s poetry. The pieces chosen are dark and somber and moody and fit perfectly with the novel. All in all this is a perfect addition to the story, again showing beautiful things created by humans being destroyed and warped by vampires while simultaneously adding to the ‘world’ that GRRM is creating.

I guess why I enjoyed this book so much was the consistent surprises of the little details that frequently make GRRMs books so colourful and true to their setting. If you want to read a book by a master of fiction but don’t want to get stuck into the epicness that is a Game of Thrones then I suggest Fevre Dream as your first port of call. Then once he has you hooked you can move on to dreamsongs 1&2 and aGoT.

6 stars (one extra for not being Twilight…)

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