Posted by : atcampbell | On : June 19, 2001

Galveston by Sean Stewart

The discussion of Sean Stewart’s latest novel drew thirteen attendees. Also, two people e-mailed in comments. Galveston is a fantasy novel set in the near future, after another big hurricane has caused great damage to the island off the coast of Texas. The complex and multi-layered plot of this book involves poker, witchcraft, famous Texas families, Mardi Gras, piano-playing ghosts, cannibals, historic mansions, the devil, first aid, and giant shrimp men.

We had a lot of familiarity with this author and topic. Ten people at the meeting had read Galveston, and eight had read prior books by Sean Stewart. Seven of us had visited Galveston and had seen many of the historic sites mentioned in the book. Also, eight of us had attended Stewart’s reading and signing of this book last year at Adventures in Crime & Space.

Our group had a lot of favorable comments on this book. Many of us were sucked in by the high-stakes poker game that opens the book. The gorgeous prose style delivered with a slow Southern drawl fit the story perfectly. Those of us familiar with Galveston and its history enjoyed reading a story involving the wonderful island and its famous families, although several names had obviously been changed to protect the guilty. The semi-feudal Galveston society, controlled by cultlike organizations called krewes, was fascinating. We appreciated how the personal journeys of the book’s young adult protagonists exhibited growth in small but believable ways. The recurring poker games were fun to read and revealed much about the players’ personalities. We were impressed by how well the personalities of future Galveston’s matriarchal leaders were depicted by a male author. Sean Stewart has always been able to write great women.

While this book had more wonderful and memorable elements than most other books, we did have some quibbles. The magic realist approach of the book was just not to some people’s taste. Some of us who are fond of Galveston hated what Stewart caused to happen to the island in this book. And while the book mentions several types of monsters including minotaurs and zombie frogs, we never actually encounter them in the course of the story.

We found Galveston to be a rich and rewarding piece of fantasy literature, and we’re looking forward to Sean Stewart’s next book. After the discussion several of us had a nice dinner at Threadgill’s.

— A. T. Campbell, III