Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Everfair, by Nisi Shawl

This is the fourth of five novels I'll be reading for the Nebulas.  Everfair is categorized by its author as an alternate history steampunk novel.  And while there is steampunk to be found, it's pretty heavy on the history.

The setting is an imaginary country in Africa, carved out like all others from European conquest.  In this case it is not by force, but by "purchase" from the Belgian king Leopold.  Well-meaning whites in the British Fabian Society facilitate the purchase, and it becomes an African democracy.

The story is one of forward-thinking hope--the narrative is driven by a lesbian love triangle and interracial romance.  Everfair is modern in all aspects--it is scientifically as well as socially advanced.  The technology is interesting--we have bicycles powered by very small steam-turbine nuclear reactors, and very intricate prosthetics (driven by atrocity).  But the technology in most cases does not seem to interact as much as it might with the history, the exception being the development of flight as freight transport through advanced dirigibles.  Mostly it's a recitation of the various political struggles and intrigues of a colony formed by idealists, trying to avoid Liberia's fate.

Personally I just did not find it engaging.  There's very little action that matters, and while drama is the central driver, it rarely reaches more than a simmer.  Everfair kind of bumps along, speaking lessons to our time but in a way that reminds me of an overly warm summer school classroom.  Took me forever to read.

It's a book you want to like, but in the end I can only give it two stars.

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