Everfair is a wonderful Neo-Victorian alternate history novel that explores the question of what might have come of Belgium's disastrous colonization of the Congo if the native populations had learned about steam technology a bit earlier.Read more...
Everfair is a wonderful Neo-Victorian alternate history novel that explores the question of what might have come of Belgium's disastrous colonization of the Congo if the native populations had learned about steam technology a bit earlier. Fabian Socialists from Great Britian join forces with African-American missionaries to purchase land from the Belgian Congo's "owner," King Leopold II. This land, named Everfair, is set aside as a safe haven, an imaginary Utopia for native populations of the Congo as well as escaped slaves returning from America and other places where African natives were being mistreated.
Nisi Shawl's speculative masterpiece manages to turn one of the worst human rights disasters on record into a marvelous and exciting exploration of the possibilities inherent in a turn of history. Everfair is told from a multiplicity of voices: Africans, Europeans, East Asians, and African Americans in complex relationships with one another, in a compelling range of voices that have historically been silenced. Everfair is not only a beautiful book but an educational and inspiring one that will give the reader new insight into an often ignored period of history.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-08-01
- Reviewer: Staff
In this deeply compelling debut novel, Shawl, who’s well known for her short fiction (Filter House) and teaching (Writing the Other, with Cynthia Ward), takes readers to an alternate Earth where the inhumane history of the Belgian Congo is brilliantly rewritten when Africa’s indigenous populations learn about steam power. Determined to help former slaves return to Africa, African-American missionary and Civil War veteran Rev. Lt. Thomas Jefferson Wilson forms an alliance in 1889 with Great Britain’s Fabian Society, an organization interested in creating a model Socialist utopia. Together, they buy land in the Congo from Belgian’s King Leopold II and create Everfair, a homeland for returning former slaves, foreigners searching for a better life, and Congolese natives desperate to escape Belgium’s brutal grasp. Everfair draws in a variety of characters, including adventurers, broken families, poets, and inventors. Cultures clash as ancient traditions, old prejudices, and innovative technology feed fresh, new intrigues. Shawl deftly wields a diverse cast of characters to impressive effect, taking readers from the Victorian era to WWI and its aftermath. This highly original story blends steampunk and political intrigue in a compelling new view of a dark piece of human history. (Sept.)