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Everfair: A Novel Hardcover – September 6, 2016
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"This highly original story blends steampunk and political intrigue in a compelling new view of a dark piece of human history." ---Publishers Weekly Starred Review --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
About the Author
Nisi Shawl is a writer of science fiction and fantasy short stories and a journalist. She is the co-author (with Cynthia Ward) of Writing the Other: Bridging Cultural Differences for Successful Fiction. Her short stories have appeared in Asimov's SF Magazine, Strange Horizons, and numerous other magazines and anthologies.
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Top Customer Reviews
It’s just hard to follow.
That could be because instead of one viewpoint character, or even two or three (see most epics), or five or six (think Brandon Sanderson, Robert Jordan), we’ve got eleven. They are well-written and unique and fun to read—but even so I struggle to remembered who each one was and what had happened last time we met them.
Add to that some significant time jumps—the book takes place over twenty years, and sometimes a year or more has passed since we last followed a particular character—and they’re in a new place, and a lot politically has happened since then. Technology itself leaps forward—we go from steam tractors to fast dirigibles in the space of a chapter or two, in which the main settlement has also been attacked and had to retreat somewhere else to caves, and we’ve switched character heads…
You get the idea. Really cool stuff is happening, but instead of a single story Everfair feels like six or eight novellas shuffled together. It expects a lot of the reader, and much as I’m ready for mental leaps, for imaginative stretches—that’s part of why we love fantasy—at a certain point the readability gets in the way of the awesome. And bottomline, I found myself less excited to return to Everfair than other books I was reading at the time, despite all the things it has going for it.
So take this for what you will. If you love historical fantasy/steampunk, really diverse casts of characters, or are interested in steampunk imagining some of the wrongs of Leopold’s Congo righted, this book will be worth the work. If that all sounds good, but you’re looking for a book to draw you in rather than having to pull yourself in, it might not be the one.
Read more reviews and see the Top Ten for recent Fantasy at [...]
But "Everfair" is a plodding and rather confusing novel. The book focuses almost entirely on about a half-dozen characters who come to have key leadership roles in the new state, but all but ignores the thousands of others living in the vast territory. There is a lot about the personal relationships between these founders, and a good deal about the steampunk technological boom in Everfair, but not a lot about life in the emerging state itself.
AH purists may enjoy it, but for others, it's a tough read.
The book handles racism, interracial romances, colonialism, religious discrimination, and the main romantic pairing is two women--all things that should make this book deeply interesting for me...
But it moved too quickly through 40 years of Everfair's history for me to really get to know any of the characters on anything more than a superficial level. And that is too big a weakness for me.
Shawl is obviously a big fan of Octavia Butler and has based her writing style on such works as the relentlessly paced "Mind of My Mind". In that book, Butler completely reshapes society around a genetic mutation, showing the reader the step by step transformation, sacrificing character development and depth for the sake of scope. It works because Butler is writing science fiction and throwing out new and exciting ideas with every chapter. "Everfair" promises to do that for a historical setting but fails to deliver in the same way. The much touted setting, the Congo Free State, is never explored. The somewhat scanty Wikipedia page offers more information on the subject and presents a more harrowing and human read. So what we have is simply a fast paced blur of nothing much. Chapters go on for about 3 pages a piece and present us with brief scenes disconnected from any kind of context that would allow us to grow attached to the characters or setting. At one point a character is killed and we are meant to see this as a capital T Tragedy because she is in love, even though said character has spoken less than a dozen lines of dialogue and gone from a child to a young woman entirely off stage. The gadgetry that forms the backbone of the steampunk genre is completely nondescript and does nothing to impact the situation much one way or the other; meaning the book fails on every single front. I can't imagine who this book was written for or anyone who might truly have enjoyed it as anything more than a stylistic exercise.