The Dreamers – Karen Thompson Walker Quick Review
People are falling asleep in the isolated town of Santa Lora. Falling asleep and not waking up. A virus is spreading, the town is locked down, and we follow the separate yet intertwined journey’s of a college student, two new parents, two little girls, a psychologist and a college professor through the unfolding events.
The dreamers is a thought provoking, insightful, dream like read with an edge of raw emotional dread.
The story, told in short chapters of third person, multiple P.O.V, is immediately reminiscent of Stephen King’s Sleeping Beauties though clearly not nearly as long. Its beautifully written prose and close inspection of characters in a chaotic setting lend it a surprising intimate quality.
What I expected before reading was a sort of short, sci-fi/thriller/horror. An outbreak in an unsuspecting town leading to mass chaos. A familiar concept. What I got was an easy to devour, melding of genres with a more tender and human take on that familiar concept. More tension and slow dread than horror. Though the pacing can lag in some places feeling a little slower when I wanted things to pick up and repetitive when I wanted things to move forward.
Curiosity regarding the sleeping sickness is definitely a driving mystery but the personal experiences are the main focus. It felt less like it was about the virus or events or even the specific characters but instead the different relatable experiences of characters from all different places in life. Within that intense setting, highlighted under that kind of panic and urgency, drawn out and caged in with few options and everything important to lose.
The virus provides this opportunity and insight. The meaning and value of things are questioned vulnerably; dreams, life, death, love, loss, how unstable and fragile normalcy and order can be and how easily pulled apart. The weight of these things when the threat of death is so close.
It’s the similarities in the personal experiences of characters, that on paper are so different, that reminds you of the connectedness of the human experience.
Though short, I felt quite a lot more for the characters than I thought I would. Walker did well pulling me closer much sooner than I usually would, using the seriousness of events to fully illuminate characters. Despite the fact that the book often read a little removed, a step away from the story like watching a movie. The experienced thoughts, fears and pains evoked will stay with me (more so than the characters).
You don’t get a whole lot of answers in the end though for me this was not an expectation. The virus and the events surrounding it in the end are left mysterious and dream like. Reality and delusion remain a little blurry throughout.
– 5/5 A beautiful discussion and exploration of the human experience, highlighted by the chaotic events following after a virus is unleashed on an unsuspecting town.
Buy it – The Dreamers