by Sean Stewart


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"Terrific fun." — Publishers Weekly
"Eerie, enthralling, [and] flavorsome." — Kirkus Reviews
"Fantasy novels don't get much better than Galveston." — Washington Post Book World
Twenty years ago, a flood of magic swept over the island of Galveston. Isolated from the rest of the world, deprived of electricity and outside resources, the residents carry on in two separate worlds: the "normal" half; and Carnival, an endless Mardi Gras celebration populated by minotaurs and other monsters, where the music never stops and miracles abound. But now the community leaders who saved the island from chaos and guard the gates between the two halves are aging and their system is faltering. Sloan Gardner, the daughter of one of the gatekeepers, discovers how to cross between the two Galvestons and becomes a link between a father and son whose destinies hold the key to the survival of both worlds. Can a generation with no knowledge of the world before the flood maintain the barrier between the realms of magic and reality, or will the island descend into anarchy?
A dramatic exploration of such themes as love, friendship, and honesty, Galveston offers a compelling view of life as a game of chance. Library Journal praised the author of this gripping novel as possessing a "brand of magical realism [that] combines psychological drama with otherworldly images to create a rich tapestry that lingers long after the end of the tale."

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780486816845
Publisher: Dover Publications
Publication date: 10/18/2017
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 1,232,401
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Canadian-American science fiction and fantasy author Sean Stewart has written several novels and is Creative Director at Microsoft's Xbox Studios.

Read an Excerpt



"Poker is a man's game," Josh's daddy used to say, "because it isn't fair."

He played every Saturday afternoon on the verandah behind the Ford mansion. Most Saturdays, when the sun began to fall into the Gulf of Mexico, Joshua Cane got the job of fetching his father home for supper. He liked going to the Ford place. Sometimes Sloane Gardner would be over, playing with the Ford twins. Mrs. Ford said Josh was sweet on Sloane, but really it was just that she was curious and gave him a chance to explain things. Everyone agreed Josh was a smart boy.

Even when Sloane and the Ford kids weren't there, Mrs. Ford always let him in and asked him how his mother was doing, and whether business at the pharmacy was good. When he had answered to her satisfaction, she sent him back to the cavernous kitchen, where Gloria the black cook would give him a treat. When his mother found out about the treats, she started sending along three red ibuprofen for Gloria's arthritis. Gloria said she didn't want to be paid, and Josh explained it was a gift. Gloria said his momma just didn't want to feel in debt. Josh figured she pretty much had the right of it.

April 12, 2015, was the hottest day of the spring yet. Josh waved to the Mexican gardener working in the flower bed beside the porch. He knocked on the door and a housemaid let him in. "Master Cane," she said, her curtsey lost under an armful of purple drapes. "I'm just taking these up to be mended. Your dad's on the back porch. Can you find your way?" Josh nodded and she headed upstairs. As Josh stepped into the cool air-conditioned hallway, sweat started up on his skin like water beading on a cold glass. A pair of housemaids sat at the dining room table polishing silver. They paused and bobbed their heads as he went by. No sign of any kids today. Back in the kitchen, Gloria had a pot of crawdads boiling on the gas range. Clouds of mud-scented steam rose from it, blown apart by the slow chop of the ceiling fan overhead. Gloria was cutting garlic into a skillet full of hissing butter, and there was a chess pie in the oven. Josh was almost too old to lick the beaters, but not quite.

Gloria frowned into the Fords' massive refrigerator. It had been eleven years since the Flood of 2004 had ended the industrial world, and with no spare parts available, refrigerators were becoming more precious — but of course the Fords had a giant two-door Frigidaire that would squirt out chilled water or ice cubes in two different shapes, regular cubes or the little half-moons Joshua liked better. Their freezer was big enough to hold a dressed-out buck and enough doves to make pie for forty, which was what they served each September on the first weekend of whitetail season.

"Well, Joshua, try you one of those," Gloria said, pulling out a crockery dish in which a few dozen shrimps lay nestled in crushed ice.

"Thank you, ma'am." Josh took a shrimp, pulled off its legs, and split its shell with practiced fingernails. It was pleasantly cold and firm in his mouth. Munching happily, he stood peeking through the kitchen blind at the back porch. He liked watching the menfolk play cards and lie to one another and laugh. It was as if there were two wholly different worlds, one for women like Mrs. Ford and Gloria and even his mom back at home in the pharmacy, and another one for men, who worried less and laughed more as they sat outside under the Gulf of Mexico sunset and drank rice beer from recycled Mexican beer bottles, Corona and Tecate and Dos Equis.

Except nobody was laughing tonight. Of all the men on the verandah only his father seemed really comfortable. It was his turn to deal. The sleeves of his cotton shirt were rolled up, and Josh could see the muscles in his forearms move as he shuffled and passed the cards back to be cut. Sam Cane was a notoriously lucky man. The others wouldn't have played with him if he didn't fold so often that there were still pots for the rest of them. Sam sipped from a glass of ice water. He never touched liquor when there was money on the table.

Sam's poker face was an easy smile. Josh's was a worried little scowl, and he still had a lot of tells. His hands shook when he was nervous on his bets, and his eyes tended to widen when he liked his cards. He knew the odds as well as his father did, now; he was smart and good at games and could beat his daddy at chess maybe one time in three. But when they dealt a pack of cards it was as if Josh were sitting there naked as a jaybird, while he never could see past his father's smile.

Around the table men picked up their hands. The game would be five-card draw, jacks or better. His father always said a man was a fool who didn't take advantage of being dealer by choosing a game where he got last choice to open. Directly across from his father sat Jim Ford. He had a big pile of chips at his place but looked nearly miserable. Josh couldn't figure it.

"You'd like to be out there playing, wouldn't you?" Gloria said, washing up a mixing bowl. Josh didn't answer. "Well, go on anyway. Your momma's waiting on you."

"All right." Josh dropped the shrimp head in the slops bucket and pushed the back door open.

Outside the air was warm and sweet. Two hens were in the yard, each followed by a little peeping crowd of chicks, scuffling through the yard for seeds and doodlebugs. Bumblebees drowsed and hummed among the rose beds and oleanders, which were all out in blossoms, pink and white. The sun was setting and the shadow of the Fords' big Victorian mansion lay deeply over the verandah and the yard beyond. Josh quickly closed the kitchen door behind him, mindful not to let the cool out. Six men turned to see him. They looked relieved.

"There you are, Josh," Jim Ford said, running his hand back through his hair. "I was about to figure you got eaten by wild dogs."

"Or carried off by hungry niggers," Carl Banks said. Carl was black. "Sam, your boy's here."

"Hey, Josh. — All right. I'll see that bet and raise you a hundred," Sam said, turning back to the table. Carl and Uwe Krupp folded immediately. That left Jim Ford, Vinny Tranh, Joshua's dad, and Travis Denton.

In all the years since Colonel Denton, a hero of the Confederate army, came to Galveston to make his living cheating cotton farmers, there had never been a civil Denton. Of the three great Galveston families, the Gardners were as gracious as could be, the Fords differed each from the next, but the Dentons always had that air of thinking a good thrashing was about what you deserved. Travis Denton was a mass of tells. His voice changed when he was under stress, and he sat leaning over the table with his shoulders high and tight. He even ordered his cards in his hand, right where everyone could watch him doing it. Josh despised a man who couldn't hold his cards.

Travis said, "If you want to bet it, Sam, put it on the table."

It was then Josh realized his dad was out of chips.

Sam Cane didn't say a word. Just looked at Travis, eyebrows up a mite, smiling. He had learned that trick from Josh's mom, that way of cutting out a joke in poor taste or a badly chosen phrase and putting a big fence of silence around it so that everyone had time to look it over. Men known to bluster and rage through any kind of argument ended up wriggling like perch on the hook of that silence.

Jim Ford took a swallow of rice beer from his Dos Equis bottle without meeting anybody's eyes. "Don't worry, Travis. He's good for it."

Josh's dad deliberately wrote out a chit on the back of a piece of paper and placed it in the pot. Looking around the table, Joshua saw there were scraps of paper in Carl's winnings, and Vinny's, and Travis Denton's. A feeling jumped in his stomach as if he were walking by a yard with a big dog unchained inside. His father always brought a bankroll of fifty times the minimum bet. "You can't win playing with scared money," he said. "Quit when you've lost forty-five times the minimum bet. Either you've got no luck, or the other players are way better than you, or the game is crooked. Any one of those is a good reason not to be there. So — in a five-dollar game, how much can you lose before you walk away?" "Two hundred twenty-five dollars," Josh had said. He had always been good at math.

But something was wrong tonight. Either his father hadn't brought a big enough bankroll, or he hadn't quit when he was supposed to. The betting went around the table as Josh walked over to stand behind his father's chair. Sam Cane closed his hand.

"Won't even let the kid see your cards, Sam?" Carl Banks laughed. He had big white teeth and was vain about them. He had paid a tidy sum to Josh's mother to set aside her store of Rembrandt Extra Whitening toothpaste for him. They'd sold him the last tube a week ago. In another year they would have sold every tube of the real toothpaste from before the Flood. Josh's mother was already experimenting with making their own from instructions in a book of herbal medicine. He had spent the morning chopping sage leaves fine and baking them together with milled sea salt and then grinding the mixture into powder. Josh thought the new tooth powder tasted weird and salty, but his mother said they didn't have a choice.

Josh's father turned and reached up to tousle his hair. "He's a good boy."

"I don't want to see his cards. I still got tells," Josh explained to Carl. "I don't want to give away his hand."

"That's my boy. How many, Mr. Denton?"

Travis Denton took a card. Josh's dad only allowed one draw when he dealt. No sense letting chance run rampant, he said. Jim Ford took three cards, Vince took two. Josh's dad drew one card. It was possible he was drawing to a straight or flush, but without a lot more money in the pot to make it worth the gamble those were poor percentage draws. Josh put him on two pair, drawing for a chance at a full house. "Any fool can play his own cards," his father used to say. "The trick is putting the other fellow on a hand."

Sam Cane took a sip of his ice water. "Any bets?"

Vincent Tranh bet. He had a leathery, lined Vietnamese face and spoke in a soft South Texas drawl. He always smelled of raw shrimp and chili paste. The KKK out of Beaumont had blown up his parents' shrimp boat in 1978, three years after they came to the States from Vietnam. Claimed they were setting illegal trot lines, which they probably were. They sold their house, bought another boat on the proceeds, and moved to Galveston while Vincent was still a boy.

Vince was the kind of player Josh's dad called a Rock; usually he only stayed in with very good cards. If Vince was drawing two cards and betting, Josh put him on trips. If Vince didn't have three of a kind, he would at least be holding aces and a paint off. Nine times out of ten Sam would fold his hand if Vince was betting after the draw. He folded more hands by far than any of the other players. This time he stayed in.

Travis Denton agonized; put his cards down; picked them up and stayed in. Jim Ford folded. Josh's dad called Vince's bet but did not raise. If he was bluffing he'd have raised, trying to drive Vinny out. Vinny was a conservative player. Then again, if he was dead sure of his cards, he would have raised moderately, trying to suck a little more juice into the pot. Josh judged the call to mean his father thought he could win, but wasn't sure. Two pair, most likely, hoping Vince hadn't been dealt trips. "Show em, Vince."

The shrimper laid down three queens. "They looked pretty good to me, Ace."

Travis Denton brought his own pre-Flood bourbon to the game and never shared. He knocked back a slug of it. "Fuck me."

Sam Cane smiled and laid his cards facedown on the table. "Vince, you always did have a way with women."

Vince hadn't so much as held a woman's hand since the Flood took his wife. She had been in the hospital delivering their first child when it hit. He had just gone home to sleep for the first time in thirty-six hours. When he woke up, the world had changed. Magic coalesced everywhere in the Flood, clotting around strong emotions, taking on flesh and will. Creatures born of survivors' joy and sufferers' pain, the relief of loved ones and presurgical dread, had warred throughout the University of Texas Medical Branch, leaving the hospital a shattered ruin. Vince had barely survived himself, joining the Krewe of Thalassar parade while minotaurs stalked the Island's streets.

Vincent Tranh sorted his winnings. He stalled for a second over Sam's IOU before tucking it under a stack of blue chips.

Jim Ford stood back from the table, wiping the sweat from his forehead again and swiping at a mosquito. Sunset was fading to dusk in the rose garden out beyond the verandah. Darkening blue sky closed around the fronds of the tall palm trees behind Jim's mansion. A last burst of animal noise saluted the end of the day: roosters crowed, a pig squealed, cicadas boomed and buzzed. The blue-white lights in the swimming pool came on, making the water glow. The Gulf breeze rustled among the oleanders.

Jim Ford faked a smile for Josh. "You come to fetch your daddy home for dinner?"

"Yessir. I —"

"I ain't quite ready to quit," Sam Cane said. "Just one more hand."

Men studied the roses, or the sky. Carl Banks looked down at the table, not meeting Sam's eye. "I keep my wife waiting, there's hell to pay."

Josh knew this wasn't well calculated to get his father out of the game.

"I'm in," Travis Denton said, picking up the deck and shuffling. "Seven-card stud. Sit down if you want to play."

Vincent Tranh stood up. "I can't afford to stay in another hand. Sam's too lucky to keep losing. I don't want to be at the table when Ace finds his touch again."

"That's for damn sure," said Carl.

Little slips of paper were fluttering under chips all around the table. Josh counted seven of them. Something was terribly wrong. "Dad?"

"I'm right here," Sam said. "Jim? I'd hate to sit at your table without you having a piece of the action."

"Dad. Dad, Mom said —"

"Hush, Josh."

Jim fidgeted. "Hell, Sam. You're going to get the boy in trouble. Why not pack it up?"

"Because I feel lucky" Sam was still smiling his easy smile, but there was something else behind it, an edge. He did feel lucky, Josh was sure of it. So lucky, so confident that even those slips of paper weren't unnerving him. Sam turned around and fully met his boy's eyes. "Josh, I'm going to play another hand. I'd be happy for you to stay and be my good luck charm. But if you're worried about getting in trouble, you scoot along home to your mother. I'll be there directly."

Josh looked at his father, calm and easy sitting there, his pale blue eyes that trusted him, trusted his son. He had a frog in his throat that made it hard to speak. "I can wait out a hand," he said.

Travis Denton banged the cards on the table to square them and made a show of shuffling. "You in, Jim?"

Jim sighed. "Yeah, why not. Hell yes. Deal the damn cards."

Three of them in the hand, Travis and Jim and Josh's father. Vince and Carl and Uwe all made as if to leave, gathering up wallets and keys and caps, but as the two hole cards went down they stilled, standing around the table. The sky was darkening fast. It would have been hard to read the cards if not for the light that fell through the kitchen blinds to lie in bars across the table. One by one the city's roosters fell silent. The air seemed to sigh the day's last breath, rich with cicada song and the smell of magnolia. Night coming.

Josh couldn't help peeking when his father checked his hole cards. Four of clubs, ace of clubs. Travis dealt Third Street, the third card in the hand and the first one to be placed faceup in plain view. Four of hearts for Josh's dad. Josh's heart hammered in his chest. One pair by Third Street, with an ace for the side card. A playable hand. Jack of diamonds to Jim Ford. Dealer showed a seven of hearts.

"Jack to bet."

"No bet."


"Oh. I'll go in twenty, I reckon. Pass me that notebook of yours, would you, Carl?" He took the notebook from Carl and a pencil and wrote out an IOU.

"I'll see your twenty and raise you twenty more," Travis said. He bit another finger off the hand of bourbon in his shot glass.

"Shit," Jim Ford said, looking at Josh and his dad. He shovelled forty dollars in chips across the table.

Joshua's father wrote out another IOU.

It is a cold fact that after the Great Hurricane of 1900, the Galveston Relief Committee asked the Dentons to give temporary shelter to a group of orphans and the Dentons turned them down. They said they had no space or food or water to spare. A week later, when Will Denton, Jr., told the Colonel that business was bound to suffer from the exodus of survivors from the Island, the old man uttered one of the most famous comments in Island history. "Good," he said. "Remember, we both love to hunt and fish. The fewer people on the Island, the better the hunting and fishing will be." Two weeks after the hurricane, Will Denton, Jr., purchased a thirty-room mansion at 2618 Broadway for ten cents on the dollar.


Excerpted from "Galveston"
by .
Copyright © 2000 Sean Stewart.
Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Chapter One: Luck, 1,
Part One,
Chapter Two: Sloane, 21,
Chapter Three: Momus, 41,
Chapter Four: The Apothecary, 51,
Chapter Five: The Recluse, 63,
Chapter Six: The Mask, 83,
Chapter Seven: Third Street, 99,
Part Two,
Chapter Eight: Insulin, 117,
Chapter Nine: Sheriff Denton, 141,
Chapter Ten: The Trial, 155,
Part Three,
Chapter Eleven: Asylum, 175,
Chapter Twelve: Scarlet, 195,
Chapter Thirteen: Hurricane, 213,
Part Four,
Chapter Fourteen: Venom, 233,
Chapter Fifteen: Maggots, 247,
Chapter Sixteen: Cannibals, 261,
Chapter Seventeen: Martial Law, 279,
Chapter Eighteen: Baptism, 299,
Part Five,
Chapter Nineteen: Going Under, 317,
Chapter Twenty: Treatment, 335,
Chapter Twenty-one: Offerings, 357,
Chapter Twenty-two: Krewe of Rags, 369,
Chapter Twenty-three: The River, 389,
Acknowledgments, 415,

What People are Saying About This

William Gibson

A wonderfully vivid and unexpected blend of magic realism and finely observed contgemporary experience.

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Galveston 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
krisiti on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Excellent novel, I liked it much more than the Night Watch. Play the hand you're dealt. The poker bits reminded me a bit like that Tim Powers. Is poker inherently fantastical?There's something very great and disturbing in the way that magic is presented as wonderful, strange and bizarrely beautiful, everything magic was ever meant or thought to be, and yet, and because of that, horrifying and completely inimical to the modern human.
Crowyhead on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A highly original, gritty fantasy. In the year 2004, there was a Flood -- not of water, but of magic, which has destroyed most of civilization and left twisted magical beings in its wake. The Flood hit Galveston, TX in the middle of the Mardi Gras celebration, but thanks to the work of the witch woman Odessa, the island survived. Now, half the island struggles to survive with failing technology and ever-decreasing supplies of modern medicine, eking subsistence out of the sea. In the other half of the island, it is perpetual Mardi Gras, perpetually 2004, and there is cold beer and music and magic, but once you enter Mardi Gras, you can never leave. When Sloane Gardner enters Mardi Gras to make a deal with its master and protector, Momus, it transpires that she is one of the few who can pass freely between the two worlds, and this will mean great changes for Galveston...The world of Galveston is populated with fascinating characters, all of them flawed. This isn't a feel-good novel; people are cynical, and petty, and cruel. But there is still a sense of hope and wonder. Great stuff.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book a bit over a year ago, and i have to say it is one of my all time favorites. My mother borrowed it from the library, and so I (a 14 year old with nothing better to do) read it. From the first page i was captivated, It took me only two days to finish, it drew my attention so! Not only does Stewart write of magic...but he put it into his book as well.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'Galveston' is the best work yet by this young author. In a genre cluttered with rehashes of its modern grandfather, namely Tolkien, Stewart's books stand as the welcomed exceptions, the refreshing alternatives to Robert Jordan and Terry Brooks. Give this one a shot!