the Little Red Reviewer

Fevre Dream: the original True Blood

Posted on: September 19, 2011

Fevre Dream, by George R R Martin

Published in 1982

where I got it: borrowed from a friend

why I read it: been on a GRRMartin kick lately

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I’ve been on a George R R Martin kick lately, along with most of the epic fantasy blogosphere. While everyone else is reading a nearly infamous fifth book, I’ve been hitting the backlist. When a friend offered to lend me his autographed copy of Fevre Dream along with the recently released graphic novel (which I haven’t read yet), I jumped at the chance. George R R Martin writing vampire horror on an antebellum Mississippi River? Sign me up!

beware – spoilers ahead.

Fevre Dream opens with a very depressed steamboat owner. Abner Marsh has had nothing but bad luck. Steamboats crushed in ice, or destroyed by the river. Few want to work with him, some believe he’s cursed. One day he’s approached by a wealthy gentleman named Joshua York who makes Marsh an offer he can’t refuse. Their partnership agreed upon, York supplies massive sums of money, and Marsh hires the best riverboat builders, engineers, and pilots money can buy. Soon, the Fevre Dream is born. She’s over 300 feet long, trimmed in silver, and nearly covered in mirrors. Once you’ve laid eyes on the Fevre Dream, you can never forget her.

It’s not long before Marsh and his crew suspect something strange is going on. York is never seen in the day time, and seems to only drink a homebrew wine. Betraying York’s trust to never enter his room or ask detailed questions, Marsh breaks into his room in an attempt to discover his secret.

Not only is York a vampire, but he’s a vampire with a mission. Over the decades, he’s developed an animal blood based drink that will stave off the hunger for human blood. His mission is to find others of his kind and introduce them to the drink in hopes one day humans won’t have to be afraid of vampires. Down in New Orleans is a nest of Vampires, led by powerful blood master Julian. Who will prevail as more powerful? Joshua and his “cure” for the red-thirst, or Julian who preaches that vampires are superior to humans and should drink freely of them because they are inferior?

now for the spoilers:

This is a book about more than just vampires.

It’s a book about people, and how we choose to treat each other. Martin is blatant in his use of old fashioned southern dialects and word usage. I’ve never seen the n-word used so many times. I’m not sure if I was supposed to be shocked, or to get as used to it as the characters are, or what. Abner Marsh doesn’t use slaves on his riverboats, but he sure isn’t going to sign up with the abolitionists either.

There is this wonderful conversation between Julian and Joshua, that Abner overhears. They are discussing the relationship between vampires and humans. Julian considers humans nothing but meat, sheep for the slaughter, sub-human creatures that are filthy and slow and stupid. Joshua has befriended humans over the years and agrees that yes, Vampires and humans are very different, but it is humans who brought language and art and science to the world, things Vampires aren’t capable of creating on their own.

Julian wins the argument though. All he has to do is point out how white people treat black people. How can Abner call Julian and his people evil when Abner watches silently as slaves are auctioned off every day?

Vampire stories make for wonderful metaphors, don’t they?  Who are we to call vampires (or anyone) bad or evil, when we allow horrible things to happen to our own people?

It kills me to say didn’t much care for Fevre Dream. The story, the subtleties, the ideas, they were all great. But the book itself? It nearly bored me to tears, to the point where I was skimming over entire paragraphs. Joshua and Julian were quite interesting, but I could have cared less for Abner Marsh. Maybe it’s that I don’t much care for reading about steamboat races on the Mississippi, or that the phonetic dialect dialog got old, or the odd pacing or the abrupt end. But this is the only Martin that I didn’t love to pieces. I’m hoping the graphic novel runs along at a faster pace.

If you’ve never read Martin and want to, I’m happy to recommend some wonderful stuff he’s written. But I don’t suggest starting with Fevre Dream.

 

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12 Responses to "Fevre Dream: the original True Blood"

I consider myself warned, LOL. There’s definitely a right way to do “old southern”, but, to me, it’s very, very tough to do without coming off very in your face. I do look forward to starting the Game of Thrones series (I know, I may be the only one in the universe that hasn’t read it yet, LOL)

Thanks for the review!

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it’s really too bad with this book, as the in-your-face southern dialects and social structure caused the characters to lose dimension instead of gain it. :(

Game of Thrones is really good. sure, it’s got some in-your-face epic fantasy type stuff, but it’s done much better.

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I actually started this last year and I wasn’t crazy about it… I never got far and I never finished it.

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A very interesting review. I picked this book up cheaply a few years ago before I knew who Martin was and I suffered a similar fit of boredom which put me off his other books.

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Kailana & Genki Jason – Fevre Dream is not at all representative of Martin’s work. If it wasn’t for you, definitely pick up something else of his and give it a try. Maybe this was a failed experiement of his? as I was reading it kept checking the title page to make sure that yes, it was indeed written by Martin, because it’s so unlike his other books.

Martin is famous for his epic fantasy, but he’s written all over the speculate genre spectrum. Just goes to show that although I love his epic fantasy and his SF, but maybe his gothic vampire horror isn’t for me.

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I’m loving A Song of Ice and Fire but I can’t picture him writing a book about vampires. I’m not familiar with his books outside of that series so maybe I’m just over identifying him with those books. I’ll probably pass on this one though, it doesn’t really appeal.

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My first exposure to Martin was Song of Ice and Fire too, but a few years ago I started picking up some of his older SF short stories (collected in NightFlyers and the DreamSongs short story collections). The SF short works are magnificent, almost better than Song of Ice and Fire, but yeah, the vampire stuff? ehh, the SF is way better. so if you happen to run into one of his Dreamsongs volumes, I highly recommend those!

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“Fevre Dream” is not one of my favorite early Martin books. I figured it was due to my complete lack of interest in steamboats, the steamboat era. “Armageddon Rag” and “Dying of the Light” are very different from “Fevre Dream”, and I liked them a lot more.

My first GRRM books were ASoIaF as well. I started reading them when only the first three were published, so I ended up rooting out all his older work in the waits between novels.

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I guess it’s all in the timing. I read this book many moons ago and don’t remember being bored. I like to soak-up the history in my historical novels, though it’s definitely something aquired in later adulthood (the history of Middle Earth in LOTR bored me to tears in my teens).

I also liked it much more than Armageddon Rag, which was a bit contrived and forced in its Jim Morrison meets Tolkien meets Stephen King “vibe” to me.

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I’m intrigued by GRRM, Redhead–should I start with short stories or Song of Ice and Fire?

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It all depends on what you’re in the mood for. His short works is mostly scifi and contemporary thriller, while his super-epic Song of Ice and Fire is going on about 5,000 pages of epic fantasy. I do hope you give him a try!

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