Social Media Icons

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

ATBR2019 Review: The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker @randomhouse @KThompsonWalker

The Dreamers
by Karen Thompson Walker

Thanks so much to Random House for these gifted copies in return for our honest review.

Publisher:  Random House
Publish Date:  January 15, 2019

320 Pages
Genre:  Literary Fiction

A mesmerizing novel about a college town transformed by a strange illness that locks victims in a perpetual sleep and triggers life-altering dreams—by the bestselling author of The Age of Miracles, for fans of Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Elevenand Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go.

In an isolated college town in the hills of Southern California, a freshman girl stumbles into her dorm room, falls asleep—and doesn’t wake up. She sleeps through the morning, into the evening. Her roommate, Mei, cannot rouse her. Neither can the paramedics who carry her away, nor the perplexed doctors at the hospital. Then a second girl falls asleep, and then another, and panic takes hold of the college and spreads to the town. As the number of cases multiplies, classes are canceled, and stores begin to run out of supplies. A quarantine is established. The National Guard is summoned. Mei, an outsider in the cliquish hierarchy of dorm life, finds herself thrust together with an eccentric, idealistic classmate. Two visiting professors try to protect their newborn baby as the once-quiet streets descend into chaos. A father succumbs to the illness, leaving his daughters to fend for themselves. And at the hospital, a new life grows within a college girl, unbeknownst to her—even as she sleeps. A psychiatrist, summoned from Los Angeles, attempts to make sense of the illness as it spreads through the town. Those infected are displaying unusual levels of brain activity, more than has ever been recorded. They are dreaming heightened dreams—but of what? Written in gorgeous prose, The Dreamers is a breathtaking novel that startles and provokes, about the possibilities contained within a human life—in our waking days and, perhaps even more, in our dreams.

My Review:

Santa Lora, California.  Mei finds she cannot wake up her roommate who has been sleeping all day.  She's transported to a hospital where she continues to sleep.  Professionals cannot figure out why she won't wake up.  Her eyes move as if in REM sleep and they find her brain is working as if it is in a coma and she is dreaming in a heightened state.  Then another falls asleep.  Then another. Then another. Welcome to The Dreamers.

This is such a unique take on how what appears to be a viral phenomena can impact individuals and the town as a whole.  Paranoia and fear grip the citizens of Santa Lora.  Chaos thrives as quarantines are placed.  No one wants to feel like a rat trapped in a maze.  Others want to try and do what is right by taking the infected to the hospitals (that are quickly running out of room).  Some say screw it all and escape quarantine to try and save those that are lost throughout the city while in their sleep state.

There is a wide cast of characters riddled throughout this book.  While we get intimate moments with certain characters, we also get a panoramic view of what is happening throughout Santa Lora.  This really helps to keep the book moving at a fast pace.  In the midst of all this chaos, we also get moments where we realize life just doesn't stop to negotiate these new experiences.  Babies still need to be fed.  Animals still are hungry.  Love blossoms.  First kisses happen.  

What I found the most interesting was the dreaming aspect.  Dreams are such amazing things.  Our brain takes in so much of our surroundings and we only use a very small percentage of what our brain can actually do.  Each person's body chemistry is different which makes us all such unique individuals.  Who is to say how an unknown sleeping virus can impact each individual differently. 

"It is by no means an irrational fancy that, in a future existence, we shall look upon what we think our present existence as a dream" - Edgar Allan Poe

The Dreamers definitely puts you through the gauntlet of emotions.  The author takes you on a journey where you get to explore what may be real versus what is just a dream... what you perceive to be reality.  Not quite a dystopian book, but an exploration of an unknown and how it affects us on a chemical and emotional level.


Jessica's Review:

When I read this synopsis I had some major SLEEPING BEAUTIES vibes. This is a little different though - this is a virus that begins in a college town. Mei comes home one day and is unable to wake her roommate up. Nothing seems wrong, aside from the fact that she is in a coma-like state. To make things even more unsettling, more people are beginning to fall victim to the same phenomena. They're all in coma-like states but their brains are dreaming in a heightened state. 

I think this is an incredibly unique premise and I really enjoyed the journey Walker took us on. How do you go on with life in a world of quarantines or when your loved ones are stuck in a dreaming and sleeping state? We get to meet a cast of characters and Walker is able to paint an image for us of how chaos and paranoia has taken over Santa Lora. This kept things moving at a solid pace and there weren't any real lulls in the story.

Dreams are unique to each individual and it is absolutely incredible what our brains can create for us. This isn't your typical virus taking over the world kind of story, but one that takes the virus trope and gives it a unique twist. This sleeping virus could impact everyone differently - we have no real way of knowing. I personally am not always a fan of the virus taking over kind of stories, but this one is told very differently and I loved it.

If you're looking for a mystifying and original read that will take you on a roller coaster of emotion, then this is the next book for you!

4/5 stars

No comments

Leave a Comment