Graphic Novel Round-up: Beginnings and Endings
This weekend: wear comfortable shoes

Underground Reading: Fevre Dream by George RR Martin

Fevre Dream Although he's now famous for his epic and interminable fantasy saga, perhaps George RR Martin's finest hour took place almost three decades ago, with the little-known one-off, Fevre Dream (1982).

Fevre Dream is a haunting tale from the American age of steam. It harkens back to the Mark Twain era, when massive steamboats with gilded saloons cruised up and down the Mississippi, racing, sporting, entertaining and occasionally doing a bit of business. Martin is lavish with description of the boats and the river - the half-tamed wilderness of the central US and the half-tamed wildness of the men that pilot through it. 

Into this dramatic atmosphere, he introduces vampires. 

A lost and fragmented coven of vampires is spread through the US, alternately hiding and feasting as their needs demand. While some 'good' vampires see the age of steam as an opportunity to learn, grow and explore, others see it as a means to spread their evil more quickly. 

Thankfully, this is not a textbook on the politics of vampirism. Nor is it a seedy supernatural romance - although the occasional New Orleans setting makes a few comparisons to Anne Rice inevitable. The vampires of Fevre Dream are not romantic or passionate (or even particularly good looking), they're a perverted subculture in desperate need of shelter and survival. 

In fact, the hero of the book - Captain Marsh - is the anti-Rice. Not only is he not a vampire, but he's ugly. And rude. And very rough around the edges. And not in the least bit sexy.

Although not quite steampunk, fans of the genre will enjoy this book for how it revels in describing an interesting historical period. And although not quite horror, fans of that genre will enjoy Fevre Dream as well, as Martin shows off his ability to create and maintain tension from cover to cover. Fevre Dream is slow, but that is an intentional choice - one made to let the atmosphere and the fear develop for as long as well.

Overall, a terrific book - and one extremely worthy of notice. Bringing Fevre Dream back into print may be the best part of A Song of Ice and Fire's success.

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