Good vampires vs. evil vampires on the ante-bellum Mississippi—with a fat, tough old steamboat captain perilously caught in between. This reluctant hero is Abner Marsh, once-prosperous owner of an ill-fated steamboat fleet—who can't resist an offer from pale stranger Joshua York in 1857 St. Louis: York will finance the building of a luxurious new steamboat for Marsh to captain . . . but there are to be no-questions-asked about York's eccentric doings on-board. And eccentric they are: York never appears in daylight aboard the Fevre Dream; he has an odd gaggle of similarly inclined traveling-companions; he orders the boat stopped in weird spots along the way; and . . . what about those bloodstains or that ledger-book filled with newspaper reports of murders Well, vampire-readers will catch on promptly—especially since sf award-winner Martin, in alternating chapters, offers the grisly goings-on at the Louisiana bayou manse of Damon Julian, a "bloodmaster" of the most vile sort. But it takes Capt. Marsh a good while to figure out that York is indeed a vampire. (York at first claims that he's just hunting vampires; he even appears in daylight, risking death to prove his humanity.) And when the secret is bared at last, York tells an eventually sympathetic Marsh the whole truth—including the fact that youngish vampire York (b. 1785) has, after much struggling, concocted a blood-substitute for the accursed vampire species: "I conquered the red thirst!" York's mission, then: to locate the world's vampires, to give them all the elixir, and to make vampire/human brotherhood possible. Rival bloodmaster Julian, however, is quite happy to keep his followers going with cannibalism and bloodsucking. So, when the Fevre Dream reaches New Orleans, there'll begin a series of violent showdowns—as Julian takes over the boat and imprisons York & Co., surviving assorted attacks by Marsh (who's forced to flee). And finally, after Marsh revs up his old, creaky steamboat to search for the Fevre Dream, the good vampire and his now-devoted pal will undergo grim ordeals before vanquishing kinky, sadistic Julian. Despite a few super-gory moments and a slightly too-leisurely pace—the best vampire novel since Suzy McKee Charnas' The Vampire Tapestry: generally understated, firmly grounded in the Twain-worthy steamboat setting, abundantly creepy . . . and modestly resonant in the portrayal of inter-species camaraderie.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 1982

ISBN: 0553383051

Page Count: 484

Publisher: Poseidon/Pocket Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1982

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.


Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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An almost-but-not-quite-great slavery novel.

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The celebrated author of Between the World and Me (2015) and We Were Eight Years in Power (2017) merges magic, adventure, and antebellum intrigue in his first novel.

In pre–Civil War Virginia, people who are white, whatever their degree of refinement, are considered “the Quality” while those who are black, whatever their degree of dignity, are regarded as “the Tasked.” Whether such euphemisms for slavery actually existed in the 19th century, they are evocatively deployed in this account of the Underground Railroad and one of its conductors: Hiram Walker, one of the Tasked who’s barely out of his teens when he’s recruited to help guide escapees from bondage in the South to freedom in the North. “Conduction” has more than one meaning for Hiram. It's also the name for a mysterious force that transports certain gifted individuals from one place to another by way of a blue light that lifts and carries them along or across bodies of water. Hiram knows he has this gift after it saves him from drowning in a carriage mishap that kills his master’s oafish son (who’s Hiram’s biological brother). Whatever the source of this power, it galvanizes Hiram to leave behind not only his chains, but also the two Tasked people he loves most: Thena, a truculent older woman who practically raised him as a surrogate mother, and Sophia, a vivacious young friend from childhood whose attempt to accompany Hiram on his escape is thwarted practically at the start when they’re caught and jailed by slave catchers. Hiram directly confronts the most pernicious abuses of slavery before he is once again conducted away from danger and into sanctuary with the Underground, whose members convey him to the freer, if funkier environs of Philadelphia, where he continues to test his power and prepare to return to Virginia to emancipate the women he left behind—and to confront the mysteries of his past. Coates’ imaginative spin on the Underground Railroad’s history is as audacious as Colson Whitehead’s, if less intensely realized. Coates’ narrative flourishes and magic-powered protagonist are reminiscent of his work on Marvel’s Black Panther superhero comic book, but even his most melodramatic effects are deepened by historical facts and contemporary urgency.

An almost-but-not-quite-great slavery novel.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-59059-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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