Why, you might ask yourself, am I talking about a decades-old novel by a writer with more riches than Croeses when I, a writer whose last big purchase was a Wii for my children (including the MarioKart Fun Pack!®), have my own second novel set to be released in five days?
Because I’m an idiot? Perhaps.
Or maybe it’s because George R.R. Martin deserves it.
When Mark Sieber at the Horror Drive-In stated that Fevre Dream should’ve won the Best Vampire Novel of the Century Award at this year’s Stokers, I simply frowned at my monitor. Not only did I not agree with him—how the heck can you place any book above Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend?!—I hadn’t even heard of the novel.
Now I’m seriously considering turning in my “Well Read for My Age” badge. I mean, how the heck did I not hear of this amazing novel before?
Here’s why you should read this book if you haven’t.
1. Abner Marsh
I’ve never met a protagonist like Abner Marsh. I suspect that’s because no one else has written one quite like him. He’s gruff and profane and shockingly unattractive.
And I loved him. I loved his warts, I loved his obesity, I love the fact that he became an abolitionist gradually and didn’t leap into the cause the way most writers would have forced him to. But I suppose I just gave a little of the book away, and I promise I’ll try not to do that anymore. Believe me, you’ll want to savor this novel’s little surprises completely unspoiled.
Abner March is one of the novel’s major surprises. I’ll be honest. During the novel’s early stages, I kept waiting for the real protagonist to show up. I thought I’d briefly found him when we were introduced to a character named Sour Billy (which is really the book’s only other third person point-of-view), but a couple paragraphs of his wretched world view disabused me of that notion. No, it became apparent that Abner Marsh was the character on which the book would sink or swim (hardy-har), and man, does Abner swim beautifully! It’s not hyperbole to state that he became one of my favorite characters in all of fiction. That’s right. He’s up there with Stephen King’s Stu Redman and Ray Bradbury‘s Guy Montag.
Abner Marsh is amazing. And largely because of him (hardy-har-har), the novel is amazing too.
2. It’s immersive.
If you’ve ever gotten completely lost inside the world of a book, you’ll know what I mean. That’s the kind of yarn
this is. The details are so well-chosen and the atmosphere so rich that you’ll find yourself daydreaming about the Mississippi River, about steam boating and stopping by woodyards to barter for more fuel. During idle moments you’ll smell the dank, dark waters. Late at night, after you’ve extinguished the lights, you’ll wonder about Joshua York’s vampire history and how plausible it feels. Could such things exist?
3. It’s scary.
Did I mention that this is a horror novel? I might not have, because that’s not all it is. Sure, it features vampires and shocking brutality (including a scene that made me put the book down, walk away from it, and gather myself to finish the episode; those of you who’ve read it will likely know the scene to which I’m referring…the only hint I’ll give you is that the paternal urge in me was ten steps beyond horrified at something that takes place in the main ballroom, something so hideous that I had nightmares about it); yet it’s also an incredible slice of history, a deeply moving tale of an unlikely friendship, and a testament to the power of loyalty between two individuals.
Now, for the purposes of full disclosure, I’ll give you my own five favorite vampire novels of the twentieth century:
1. Salem’s Lot, by Stephen King
2. Fevre Dream, by George R.R. Martin
3. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson
4. Midnight Mass, by F. Paul Wilson
5. (tie) Some of Your Blood, by Theodore Sturgeon
(tie) Live Girls, by Ray Garton
Oh, and one more thing. Who am I kidding—the Wii was for me too! And don’t even think about challenging me on Shy Guy Beach. I’m a banana-droppin’, crab-avoidin’, wheely-poppin’ daddy!