The Dreamers – Karen Thompson Walker

Many thanks to Netgalley and the Publisher for giving me an E-Advanced Reader copy in exchange for a fair review. The expected publication date for this novel is January 15, 2019.

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker explores the idea of dreams, mass hysteria and sudden illness. Santa Lora is a college town located on the edge of a lake. So small that there’s only one way in…and out. College has started as normal but suddenly Mei’s roommate, Rebecca, falls into a deep slumber, one that no one can wake her from no matter how hard they try. This mysterious illness soon takes over the dorm room floor that Mei and Rebecca call home and soon after that it spreads through Santa Lora. No one know what causes this illness or if anyone will ever wake from it.

This novel suffers considerably by Thompson Walker trying to extend the story from a short one to a whole novel. Many of the characters were unnecessary in the plot development, enough so that it took away from giving the other characters, well, more character. Removing some of them, namely, Rebecca, Sara, Libby, Annie, Ben and Grace would have shortened the novel but would have allowed the others to be explored more. I liked Mei, Nathaniel, and Catherine but I didn’t find much reason to care about what happened to them. I just found what little there was about them more compelling than the others.
The plot was a fun concept, but it wasn’t explored to the extent that it could have been. There was no rush to find a cure or to research it, beyond finding out that they are using more of their brains than ever recorded in a human and are experiencing REM sleep. There’s a few people from a pharmaceutical company who appear briefly, but they were there before everything happened. Catherine is also from out of town but she is a psychologist and not there to study the pathogen itself. I feel like this could have added something to the actual nature of the novel.

Thompson Walker makes it seem like It was just like half the town fell asleep and there wasn’t anything in the writing style that made it feel like it was an urgent problem. Yes the author talks about people being quarantined, people trying to get out of town and eventually the usage of medical hazmat suits. These are urgent things but the characters don’t reflect on being scared or in a hurry to do anything. When Annie, Ben and Grace try to leave and are turned back at a makeshift border they do so without any fight. They don’t panic or try and fight their way out which is common in situations of mass hysteria. It is not just Annie and Ben that act like this, it is a common theme throughout the novel.

I did not like this book at all. Which is unfortunate because it had a lot going for it. It would have been better suited as a short story than a full-length novel unless the concepts and characters were developed more. These things would have made me enjoy it more, but as it stands I did not find it to be enjoyable.

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