Fevre Dream (book) review

Hi. I finished the fifth book of George R.R. Martin’s popular ongoing A Song of Ice and Fire epic fantasy series a couple of weeks back and was left pretty appeased and yet wanting for more. Had a real hard time recently waiting for the sixth book in the series (sleeplessness and uneasiness you bet!)  and just wanted to read one of other works of Martin to calm my appetite of ASOIAF a bit. I knew well that Martin isn’t going to release The Winds of Winter anytime soon, not in next two years, at least. So, when someone recommended me a vampire based novel of his which he wrote in 1983, Fevre Dream, back when he was more of  a struggling writer, I was all for it. Struggling maybe, but I’d heard that he always had that amazing storytelling talent we’ve seen in ASOIAF even when he was young.

I was dubious about of it too. Didn’t want to waste money on anything which was not worth it. Initially. Didn’t want to read anything that was dull or uninteresting. I hadn’t gotten along well with vampires anyway, be it movies or books or TV shows. I like other supernatural stuff well enough, including grotesque zombies. But somehow, vampires didn’t intrigue me all that much (maybe Twilight was the reason?)- that was before I read this novel. I read a review of this book which was quite positive and decided to have a go anyway.
This was my only third vampire novel after Twilight (first one) and one of Anne Rice’s writing which name I can’t recall (it was a long time back). I ordered it through Flipkart and it took a pretty long time to deliver, 6 days. It was imported from abroad and costed me Rs. 357. Came nicely and securely packaged. Typical Flipkart fashion.

Okay, without further ado, let me introduce you to the plot of the novel. It’s largely a story of a struggling steamboat captain, Abner Marsh. His condition was not bad before, back when he had lots of boats. That was before last winter, though.

Now he has only one boat, a simple, small steamer barely enough to fulfill his needs. He’s then approached by a soft-spoken and rich guy who calls himself Joshua York. He offers him his partnership and even promises him a large, grand and fast new steamer if he agrees to the partnership. First, Marsh is suspicious as why a rich man like Joshua will approach a steamboat captain in miserable position like Marsh, why not other captains who are in better condition. Finally, though, Marsh agrees to York’s terms and partnership after realizing that owning an exquisite steamboat like Joshua proposes to offer was one of his dreams.

During the maiden voyage of Marsh’s dream steamboat Fevre Dream, Marsh notices few queer things in the lifestyle of York and his companions and their nocturnal habits. He sees that they stay in their dark cabins in day time and appear only when it’s dark. Then go inside again in their cabins just before the dawn. After that even crew and passengers began to grow suspicious and restless. Thus, Marsh finally had to confront York. York was reluctant at first but after repeated inquiries he replied that he and his friends are vampire hunters and they’re using Fevre Dream as a base of their anti-vampire operations. In time, though, York had to reveal the whole truth. The truth was they themselves were vampires and York then told his whole story of life about he has conquered his red-thirst (well-known thirst of blood of vampires) by brewing a potion by learning different subjects like alchemy, chemistry, medical science etc. About how he’s on a personal mission of discovering other people of his race (yes, he called vampires as another race, similar to humans and yet so different, remember the Others from ASOIAF or Childer of the Forest?) and helping them to quench their blood thirst by that special potion. By that way he can cease the hostility between vampires and humans and can unite both of the races as vampires after drinking that potion won’t have to kill humans and drink their blood. I won’t tell you the rest of the story as it won’t be any use reading the book then. I’ve spoiled you a bit already. Apologies.

Coming to writing, it’s quite precise and vivid. Martin hasn’t wasted too much time in describing the garments of characters like he does in ASOIAF. First half, while gripping, is a lot duller than the second which is lightning quick with hardly a moment to breathe. I finished this book in less than two days, which is pretty incredible as I consider myself a slow reader. But Fevre Dream was different. There is always an intriguing moment once in a while like a vampire killing someone in an ugly and grotesque fashion and sucking his life in almost an elegant way. Yes, vampires in this novel are surprisingly elegant and they talk in a smooth voice. They even move gracefully. Though, they make for a somewhat less impressive sight when they suck blood through someone’s throat or from the veins on the wrist. And beware, if you’re comely. They prefer the blood of beautiful over the ugly ones. Well, I’m spared in that case.

The characters are just what you expect from Martin. Deep and complex. The main character Abner Marsh fascinated me the most. I have nothing but respect for him. If I tell you why, I’d be spoiling the main bits of the story for you. So, I’ll refrain. Other characters are quite engrossing too, especially the strange gentleman, Joshua York. In all ways, read this book. I recommend it heartily to anyone even to someone who finds vampires and their tales irritating and/or drab. Martin’s take on vampires is fresh and compelling and…different. Like a breath of fresh, cool evening air after a hot, humid day. New to the genre or not, just pick this up.

I’ve heard that a movie based on Fevre Dream is in production. If that’s true, it’s a good news for me. Adios for now.

Rating: 4.5/5


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