Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Literally the Best Reviews: The Dreamers

The Dreamers - Karen Thompson Walker
Random House
320 Pages

Whenever I pull a book of the “New Releases” shelf at the library, I often find treasures that I didn’t expect to find, let alone simply love. When I found The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker I knew from the first sentence of the summary that I found a book that I would love. I loved it so much that I went back to the library to pick up her previous book, The Age of Miracles. That will be a review in the very near future.

The Dreamers is more than a simple fiction book. It is a science fiction novel. It is a human novel. It is a summer novel. It is a love story. It is the human aspect of this story that drew me in. I love novels that focus on human nature, and this one definitely fits the bill.

In a small college town in southern California, a young college student falls asleep and doesn’t wake up. While she’s not dead, she appears to be comatose to the world. This sleeping sickness pops up among other students at the college. The town around the campus grinds to a halt as more and more students and townsfolk fall victim to the sickness. People barricade themselves behind locked doors and resort to survivalist mentalities. Those left awake are left to care for their comatose friends and neighbors.

Scientists notice that those people who have fallen asleep have higher than usual brain patterns, like they’re dreaming. Meanwhile, those left behind are living a nightmare, waiting for their turn to fall asleep. Slowly, as the people wake up after months and months of slumber, they wake to a world they don’t quite recognize. Little details don’t quite match up and they seem to have lived entirely different lives in those months.

This book reminded me a lot of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Inner Light” from season five. In that episode, Captain Picard lived an entire lifetime in the span of only several minutes. We do not get much of a glimpse into the dreaming minds of the sleepers, but enough is inferred to guess what it is that has their brain activity so high while unconscious from the illness.

This novel centers around the struggles of Mei and her boyfriend of sorts as they struggle to accept that they could be the only ones left and determine what their relationship could be going forward. Mei sees this as an opportunity to get out from under an overbearing mother. Her boyfriend sees it as a chance to further avoid typical social expectations.

A pair of sisters with an eccentric, survivalist father must work together in the outside world - a world they long to know but are shunned away from by their father. In the growing loneliness, they discover secrets about their own past that will redefine all they knew.

This is the story of people who are faced with nearly insurmountable obstacles. Their struggles are the backbone of the novel. We find characters who have never faced such adversity rise to meet the challenges and persevere. Even in abject loneliness, they keep even the tiniest glimmer of hope. This is a story of humanity. It is very well done.

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker is a book that you will read at one sitting despite your best efforts to prolong the reading pleasure. This book will make you stop and wonder what you would do if you found yourself alone amidst a sleeping world. Take it to the beach. Take it to the pool. And definitely read it.

Craig Bacon has had vivid dreams where he thought he was already awake, only to be completely startled when the alarm went off.