The US has been ravaged by war and disease (and war over disease) and Noam Álvaro is sixteen and the child of Atlantean (Georgia, that is, not Atlantis) illegal immigrants to Carolina who is involved in the Atlantean Rights movement — until he, too, falls sick with the Fever. Unlike most of the population, however, Noam survives — and wakes up a technomancer, with the ability to talk to computer systems and all manner of technology.
And then things get worse.
I picked this for “own voices” because it was one of the Kindle Early Release program, which meant I didn’t have to pay for it. I can give it the praise that I wouldn’t have minded paying for it, but in the end I didn’t like Noam enough to really care what happens to him after the events of The Fever King. I’m much more interested in what happens to his love interest, which is a shame, because Noam is very much meant to be the more interesting character.
Noam touched the mezuzah on the doorframe as he went in, a habit he hadn’t picked up till after his mother died but felt right somehow. Not that being extra Jewish would bring her back to life. (Kindle Location 138)
I think part of the problem is that Noam is very much a sixteen-year-old boy. And also that there is A LOT of extremely heavy-handed metaphor throughout the book (and, I mean, this is stuff I mostly agree with about humanitarian action and immigrant aid and totalitarian regimes and sexuality, etc.) Which I kind of knew going in from the author’s statement but it was still just a lot.
Noam’s mother had made the most amazing food. Noam tried to live up to her standard, but he never could. He’d given up on cooking anything edible, on keeping a kosher kitchen, on speaking Spanish. On making his father smile. (Loc 170)
In addition to a Hispanic Jewish child of (Atlanta, Georgia) undocumented immigrant (to Carolina) parents, Noam is also outed as bisexual to the reader at the same time we learn his father is in a catatonic state after the suicide of his mother.
Lee’s writing is evocative, at least, though one of the character twists was telegraphed a little more strongly than I think she intended early on (TW for the book, BTW: child abuse, rape, mental coercion).
His disapproval wound out behind him like a thread that wrapped around Noam, around Dara, tight and digging into flesh. (Loc 1685)
Is The Fever King worth reading? I think it is, as long as you go in prepared for things to get very dark indeed.