The Dreamers – Karen Thompson Walker Quick Review

The Dreamers - Karen Thompson Walker Quick Review
The Dreamers – Karen Thompson Walker Quick Review

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

 

Crowded – Christopher Sebela, Ro Stein, Ted Brandt, Rachel Stott Quick Review

Crowded - Christopher Sebela Quick Review
Crowded – Christopher Sebela Quick Review

Crowded – Christopher Sebela, Ro Stein, Ted Brandt, Rachel Stott Quick Review

In the future anyone with a grudge, money and backers can use the REAPR app to put a hit on anyone else. Average girl, Charlie Ellison finds herself targeted by a REAPR campaign with a million dollars on her head. She turns to the DFEND app to hire the lowest rated bodyguard, Vita. The campaign unfathomably climbs, assassination attempts fly out from every corner and Vita, the surprising badass, drags Charlie through, often times self imposed, danger to safety.

Highlights –

  • Fun
  • Action packed
  • Intriguing world, premise and characters
  • Colorful art and interesting character design
  • Vita
  • Diverse characters

Lowlights –

  • Charlie, while she has her charms, can be more than a little irritating.
  • After 6 issues both main characters are still somehow almost a complete mystery. We get to know the two main antagonists inner workings more than we do Charlie and Vita.
  • Speaking of Antagonists inner workings, from where it all ended, Trotters whole story line felt a bit pointless. Especially after going into so much detail about him (though I’m sure more will come out of it in future issues?).
  • The ending was sort of flat. I was expecting to learn more about Charlie than that one big reveal at the end after so many issues. I wanted a little more facts than she works a hundred jobs, has evidently self destructive and flaky behavior and, the almost understandable fact, that everyone she’s ever come in contact with hates her guts and she doesn’t feel great about it.

 

– 3/5 Crowded was a fun, intriguing, action packed and colorful read, full of diverse characters but left things, at the end of the first volume, at a kind of anticlimactic place.

I have received a copy of this book via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Annihilation – Jeff Vandermeer LTTP

Annihilation - Jeff Vandermeer LTTP
Annihilation – Jeff Vandermeer LTTP

Annihilation – Jeff Vandermeer

Annihilation is intriguing and vivid and unique. The details and pacing are eerie and suspenseful. At a glance it’s the exact kind of thing I could imagine myself being really into. At 195 pages this book should make for a quick and easy read but it trudges along, less fast paced action and more ambiance description and inner monologue. The writing tends to get droning and heavy and I had to be in a very persistent frame of mind to get through a chapter in one sitting. Ultimately it took me months of putting off and picking it back up before I finished the book out of sheer, ‘I don’t like to DNF’, determination.

The problem for me was that while there are grabbing and interesting moments, it often felt like nothing happened except description for far too long between actual events. Or the things that did happen were so small and so spaced out, not a whole lot seemed significant or exciting.

It probably doesn’t help that I watched the movie first which is the exact worst set up for this book. I thought, of course, I have to read the book in order to get more depth and insight from the original work that would be missing in the movie… I mean, it did but there’s also less of the qualities that made the movie so interesting.

If you, like me, are hoping for a read that resembles the movie – this is not really that.

And it probably shouldn’t be compared but I couldn’t help comparing it, so it will be.

It doesn’t help that you don’t get much of a sense of any of the characters, other than the biologist. They start to disappear so quickly into the book without much inkling of personality or desire or anything really but shells of characters that are there and gone with a blink. I preferred the movie in that regard. The building up of the characters, investing more time in them before they are taken, one way or another.

The fact that they’re essentially puppets from the beginning of the book only adds to the frustration of this. And with the way that the story plays out you start to feel like you probably aren’t getting the best sense of the biologist’s full character either. Don’t get me wrong, her characterization is full and believable – I think it’s why the writing style can feel so monotonous and report like at times, sterile and cold (which does not help you feel for or particularly like the character). But it’s also unreliable. She is so quickly in the influence of the psychologist and then Area X that it feels as though we can’t be sure we really ever got to know the main protagonist either, despite hearing everything from her perspective.

In the movie we are less close, and that separation allows us to physically see her before and after entering Area X. We see and get a sense of who she is in a way that feels solid, less open to interpretation. In the book she recalls herself but in a situation where you can’t really be sure how much of herself is already under the influence of Area X and how much of her version of events and herself is intact. How much is truth and how much is unreliable? Sure, we get more in some ways, the details of her past life; relationships and childhood, but we get it with far less certainty.

Without connection to any character I don’t find I can hold interest in a book. Relying on description, mystery and vagueness without those character intricacies and connections, just doesn’t work for me.

The ending in the book I actually found more satisfying than in the movie. You don’t get answers and we seemed to be set up for that from the beginning. I actually enjoyed that aspect in the book where I found it frustrating in the movie. The biologist doesn’t seem to return home. She ventures instead to a place where she might find some remnant of her husband. And it’s those last moments of the book, oddly, where I feel like she is the most understandable and emotional, humanized. It’s almost hopeful.

– 2/5 An undeniably full, unique, eerie and atmospheric experience but lacking in the kind of character connection and understanding I typically like. Good where some parts of the movie is bad. Bad where some parts of the movie is good.

Buy it – Annihilation