Venice, 1609. Matteo Benveneto, younger son of a merchant family, has plans to revive the waning fortunes of the great trading city by introducing Venetians and Europeans to an exotic drink from the highlands of Arabia and the cities of the East: caofa, or coffee. His friend Gaspare Treviso has ideas for steam-powered engines that offer the prospect of military advantage against the Turks and immediate practical benefits in pumping the leaky cellars of government buildings.
A novel of coffee, ideas, and ambition, Arabian Wine offers a lush, erudite, and sensual glimpse of a culture bound by tradition and poised on the edge of explosive cultural and technological change. Energized by coffee, Matteo tries to give Venice a push nearer that edge, and finds himself under suspicion of treason and intrigue.
“Feeley (The Oxygen Barons; Spirit of the Place) delivers an elegant, low-key historical fantasy about a young Venetian merchant’s efforts to create a market for coffee in the early 17th century. Venice’s fortunes, and those of its once powerful merchant families, have suffered as Dutch and Spanish traders gain control of markets and trade routes, bringing spices, silks and other exotic goods to Europeans hungry for new luxuries. But merchant Matteo Benveneto is determined to reinvigorate Venetian business by introducing Europe to fresh brewed “arabian wine,” or caofa, as the Turks call it, “the elixir that brought fixity of purpose and clarity of mind.” Eventually, Matteo’s efforts draw the attention of Venice’s Inquisition and the Council of Ten, providing some dramatic tension. Aficionados of quirky, understated speculative fiction will be rewarded.”
— Publishers Weekly
“Arabian Wine will surely stand as one of the best novels of 2005.” — Rich Horton — Locus Magazine
“In this tale about the tragically brief pre-history of steam engines and coffee in renaissance Venice, Gregory Feeley has written an allegory as timeless as Machiavelli’s Prince and as timely as yesterday’s headlines from Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. He also paints panoramas as telling and meticulous as any by Canaletto — especially in his depiction of the Arsenal, the first assembly line of Western Civilization. All in all another top-notch historical fiction from a writer who is fast becoming the Walter Scott of the twenty-first century.” — Thomas M. Disch
“Arabian Wine is not so much a book as a little piece of renaissance jewelry, densely ornate with amber and amethyst, small and perfect. Open it, and it will reward you the way Venice does, with tiny passages opening into broad squares, and sly jokes; moments of beauty and of sadness.” — Maureen F. McHugh
“A fine, funny trans-historical adventure, so well-furnished and well-wrought it seems more true than the more boring truth. Read it with a double espresso.” — John Crowley
About the Author
Gregory Feeley is the author of The Oxygen Barons and Spirit of the Place. His novellas have appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Starlight, The First Heroes: New Tales of the Bronze Age, and numerous best of the year anthologies.