Jan. 15th, 2017

skygiants: Clopin from Notre-Dame de Paris; text 'sans misere, sans frontiere' (comment faire un monde)
Nisi Shawl's Everfair is an alternate history in which a group of British socialists and African-American missionaries form an unlikely partnership to buy up a parcel of land and found an independent Utopian nation in the Belgian Congo. Unsurprisingly, things do not go 100% Utopian from there. On the downside, the colony has to deal with international intrigue and attacks by hostile Belgian forces as well as internal conflicts about race and religion and governance; on the upside, everyone does get mechanical limbs and mechanical airships!

The book covers about 30 years of story-time, beginning in the 1890s and progressing up past the end of WWI. Some things change as a result of the existence of Everfair, and others don't. As a thought experiment, it's extremely compelling and well-thought-out. As a story, I found it interesting to read but a little difficult to fall into completely -- the story progresses as a series of brief chapters from a variety of POVs, and often skips ahead months or years in between chapters. This allows for a thorough and complex picture of the whole colony, but, on the flip side, made the individual character arcs feel really choppy (at least to me).

The only character thread that really spans the whole book is the fraught romance between Daisy Albin (AU E. Nesbit -- most major characters are AUs of historic figures, but she was the only one I could recognize without looking it up because I am not an expert on the Fabian Socialists but I am an expert on E. Nesbit's Life Choices) and Lisette Toutournier (AU Colette, whom I feel I ought to have recognized, but did not, because I have never actually read any Colette.) Spoilers )

Anyway. Everfair is worth reading, and I'm glad I read it, but I did not like it as much overall as Shawl's short stories, which I now want to reread. Along with a lot of E. Nesbit.

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