cover image Everfair


Nisi Shawl. Tor, $26.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-7653-3805-1

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.)