Nisi Shawl has been writing short stories for over two decades, and her long awaited first novel, an historical fantasy steampunk tale set in the Belgian Congo, will be released this week. It explores one of the darkest periods in human history — King Leopold’s African holocaust — and imagines what might have been if the native peoples of the Congo had developed steam technology of their own. It’s a fascinating premise, and Everfair is one of the most intriguing literary offerings of the fall.
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.
Everfair will be published by Tor Books on September 6, 2016. It is 384 pages, priced at $26.99 in hardcover and $12.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Victo Ngai.
Read a sample chapter at Tor.com.