Dreamland by Robert L Anderson
|Dreamland by Robert L Anderson|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: American teenager by day and dreamwalker by night, Dea sees the monsters in other people's nightmares at a safe distance until they follow her into real life. An adult sci-fi/fantasy that could also be a YA crossover making all of us think twice before we go to sleep!|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 336||Date: September 2015|
|Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton|
|External links: Author's website|
17 year old Dea has been to several schools in several towns, moving with her mother as if pursued. It's always the same. She'd make a friend and then the rumours would start about how she and her mum were crazy and the friend wouldn't talk to her. Dea isn't crazy. She becomes curiously ill from time to time but she has a cure: walking through people's dreams. There are rules that keep her safe when she's doing this but when Connor moves in to the neighbourhood the rules become far less important and that's when Dea's life becomes far more dangerous.
When a guy with a degree in philosophy writes his debut novel, what should we expect? A mash up of Socrates and Descartes perhaps? A volume that mixes fiction with discussions on the meaning of life maybe? Well, Robert L Anderson happens to be a philosophy graduate and debut author, the bad news being that if you would like either of those books you're out of luck. The good news is that what he has written is a great adult sci-fi/fantasy thriller with YA crossover possibilities that will scare the wotsit out of you.
The trick is that in Dea, Rob has written a credible real world teenager. She may suffer from a behind-back-whispering bullying and from having few friends due to rumours surrounding her mother, but I can relate to that. Dea's mum is also the reason why her friends are never brought round to the house. It's hard to explain why there are no mirrors and why there are several clocks in each room. Then gradually Rob introduces drops of tantalising strangeness to this almost every-day but, cleverly, even the strange is edged with realistic logic.
The dreamwalking is a prime example. Dea may wander through others' dreams by holding something of theirs as she falls asleep but this is a life support system rather than voyeurism. It also makes sense that, as a teenager, she'll exert her independence by trying to push out the boundaries, including stretching any rule she can to breaking point. The only thing is the penalties for breaking those around dreamwalking seem more assuredly fatal than not being home by 9 on a school night.
Indeed this is a fear fest as well as a coming of age story. Connor the new lad next door isn’t just a love interest; he too has a past of sinister secrets. This binds our couple together: Conor is desperately trying to piece together what he can no longer remember of his past while Dea doesn't yet realise hers existed.
In the wrong hands, watching Dea and Conor deciphering the signs could be mawkish or corny. However, (with the possible exception of a short, huge stylistic-game-changer of a fantasy sequence towards the end) Rob has a deft touch squeezing emotion and intrigue from us while we ride on a satisfying emotional roller coaster.
Oh yes, this is a story that taps into our nightmares; that fleeting moment we may feel we see something behind us in a mirror or that second of wakefulness during which we see someone at the bottom of our bed. What if we aren't imagining it?
We also ignore at our peril the book blurb warning that Dreamland is unputdownable. I did ignore it and my early night became an early-hours-of-the-morning. Was I tired the next day? Heck, yes. Do I regret it? Most definitely not!
(Thank you, Hodder & Stoughton for providing us with a copy for review and for providing me with that sleepless night!)
Further Reading: If you enjoy thrillers that turn an evening into a fright night (and who doesn't) we also heartily recommend The String Diaries by Stephen Lloyd Jones
You can read more book reviews or buy Dreamland by Robert L Anderson at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Dreamland by Robert L Anderson at Amazon.com.
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