Review copy was received from Publisher. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker
Narrator: Cassandra Campbell
Published by Penguin Audio on January 15, 2019
Genres: Science Fiction
Length: 10 hours, 30 minutes
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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.
I like science fiction and books with some sort of disease or virus fascinate me. The medical efforts and diagnosis process capture my attention. The Dreamers is a totally different focus.
There are a variety of different primary characters developed with insight as to their thoughts and ideas. Throughout the crisis, we are privy to their stream of consciousness containing their feelings about many things. There is a subtle thread of various quasi-political or even cultural attitudes in many characters. One is a prepper of sorts; another is an idealist against big business of his family background. There is a man who is a new father of only a couple weeks. It all begins with a bunch of new college students.
The illness has the affected asleep with life-like dreams, from the past or the future, who knows? The dreams are unsettling. There is also fear and prejudice from those not ill and a scramble for supplies as they are quarantined. There are parents who want to get in to care for their children attending the college. There are children who want to help their parents. The National Guard is part of the force keeping them from leaving town.
I read with interest about these people and their experiences and feelings. While I wanted to know what happened to them each, I wasn’t really very emotionally involved. I didn’t feel any urgency. I would have preferred a bit more of the science or medical aspects. I never got the feeling anyone was doing anything which would change or improve the situation. Of course, the medical personnel were sustaining the lives of those asleep.
There is very little dialogue in this book, only occasional conversations related. Most is the story being told in a comfortable tone, so I could listen at 1.5x speed. There are somewhat distinct voices used for the primary males and females, but it felt like everything was within a neutral range, probably because their stream of thoughts, no matter the character, was all in the narrator’s pleasant voice.
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