First published in 1982, George R. R. Martin’s Fevre Dream is a novel that centers on two men. Captain Abner Marsh may be considered physically unattractive and lacking in certain social graces but he’s also known as one of the best steamboat captains in pre-Civil War Mississippi. Joshua York may be wealthy and charming (if a bit pale and fond of a strange-tasting red liquor) but he knows little about how to actually run a steamboat. That said, as York explains it to Marsh, he wants to build the fastest and most luxurious steamboat ever made. Marsh may initially be weary of the seemingly eccentric York but he needs the money.
When the steamboat (which is christened the Fevre Dream) is eventually constructed, it turns out to be everything that York said it would be. Soon, Marsh is sailing the boat up and down the Mississippi River. The command of the boat and its passengers is largely left in Marsh’s hands. York requests is that he and his friends be left alone in their cabins. York doesn’t particularly enjoy coming out during the day….
Could York be a vampire? Of course, he is! But he’s not the type of vampire that everyone’s read about. Instead, York is a visionary vampire. His dream is to set his people free from their compulsive blood-drinking. However, there’s another vampire moving up and down the river. His name is Damon Julian and he has plans of his own for the Fevre Dream….
A vampire novel by George R. R. Martin!? Indeed, it is! Of course, since this is a Martin book, the vampires of Fevre Dream aren’t like the traditional vampires that we all know and love. These vampires are a totally different species of being and one of the key points of the book is that humans cannot be transformed into vampires. Indeed, the vampires view human as being mere “cattle,” being bred for their hunger. York’s concern is that, if the vampires continue to feed on humans, the humans will eventually rise up and destroy them. Damon, of course, is far less concerned about that. Just as how the white slave owners arrogantly assume that their slaves have no desire to free, Damon and his followers arrogantly assume that the humans will always stay in their place. Damon even has a human servant, Billy Tipton, who has been fooled into thinking that he might someday become a vampire as long as he does everything that Damon orders him to do.
It’s an interesting novel, one that does a good job of incorporating it’s paranormal story into an authentic, historical background. If you’re really into vampires and steamboats, there’s a lot of both to be found in this book. Unfortunately, I get the feeling that the people reading for the vampires will probably get bored with all pages devoted to steamboats while steamboat enthusiasts might not care much for the vampires. Myself, I’m a history nerd and a lover of all things vampiric so there’s no way I wouldn’t appreciate a novel about vampires in 19th century Mississippi.
It may not be for everyone but Fevre Dream is a well-written and compulsively readable historical vampire epic.