The Dreamersby Published 15 Jan 2019
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 Eleven and 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.
"The Dreamers" Reviews
In Santa Lora, California, a College Student, named Kara, falls into a deep dream filled sleep. No one can wake her. She is the first of many.
Mei was Kara’s roommate, she and several other survivors on Kara’s floor, including a teenager named Matthew, have been quarantined. Two sisters, Sara and Libby are left to fend for themselves after their father succumbs to sleep. Around town, there are armed guards, keeping the uninfected together in one place. Supermarkets are out of food and people are scared. The brain waves of the sick are highly unusual showing that the dreamers are in an active dream state and no one has any idea what it means.
My nerves were on high alert from the very first, my detective skills working overtime trying to figure out every possible scenario. Can you blame me? I mean, even though it sounds somewhat innocuous, this is still an illness I have no interest in catching.
Karen Thompson Walker’s “The Dreamers” is slow to build, but it immediately transfixes you. It is intriguing, lovely, lyrical and yes, a bit terrifying. It makes you think about the idea of community v confinement and which situation would help or hurt you most in a situation like this. “The Dreamers” also makes you ponder your dreams and what they mean. If you’ve ever had crazy dreams, this novel gives you food for thought!
This is a character driven novel: my heart lurched and my chest pounded and I felt like I was on an emotional roller coaster. “The Dreamers” is quite different, it has a “sleepily” quality to it, if you will (ha ha), and it’s a highly satisfying, haunting read which I absolutely loved.
This was a buddy read with Ms. Kaceey! So so glad we read this one together!
Thank you to NetGalley, Random House Publishing Group - Random House and Karen Thompson Walker for an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
Published on NetGalley, Goodreads and Twitter on 11.21.18.
This is the sophomore effort from Walker and is broader in scope than her first novel, The Age of Miracles. A sleeping sickness sweeps across a college dorm and spreads beyond the confines of the campus. Many people, at different stages of life, fall asleep and dream. This is an unnatural sleep and brain activity indicates that these are unnatural dreams. This reads very much like a Young Adult novel and presents questions about the dream state vs. reality that were considered by Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Descartes, Freud, Jung and many others. The variety of characters and their disparate reactions to the sickness is what makes this more than simply a speculative illness novel.
Now there's a guarantee I am giving to you: If you liked Station Eleven you will love this book.
I have never heard of Karen Thompson Walker before, but felt intrigued by the book description on NetGalley. I am so glad I have read this book. It is one of the fabulous finds, a book you pick by instinct and left you amazed.
I can summarise this as a borderline science fiction character drama- just like Station Eleven it swirls around lives of a bunch of people after a catastrophe- although in this book it's not a world-wide event, but a small town disaster, Walker masterfully delivering the intense feel of a lock down. There is sadness in this book but it's not cringe, beautiful as if a form of art.
Set in fictional university town Santa Lora in California, the book starts when some college girls fall asleep and fail to wake up. They dream. But no one knows what's causing this. Story moves between different point of views, Sara and Libby with their paranoid dad, a young married couple, Ben and Annie with their new born baby girl Grace, two castaway college students, Mei and Matthew, and a man named Nathaniel. I found almost all character's point of views really enjoyable and loved the way the story was delivered. The last chapter is one to remember.
I personally think the situation of a virus spread was handled excellently- no exaggeration, o unnecessary drama, as if a dish with all proper ingredients and a spot on pinch of spices. If you like psychological books with touch of sci-fi I will highly recommend.
5 stars and will definitely read Walker again.
A fantastic buddy read with my friend Marialyce, this beautifully written book hit all the right notes with everything I love in a novel. The premise is not a new one but the story Thompson writes is unique and compelling. What makes this book different is the thoughtful nature of the writing, the dreamy quality, and the brilliant turns of phrases. This is not a horror/sci-fi/thriller, but a quiet character study.
A sleeping sickness strikes a quiet, fictional college town in California. It begins in a college dorm and initial attempts to contain the illness fail. The disease is determined to be airborne, and the entire town is quarantined. The different ways the residents deal with such a threat makes for riveting reading.
What makes this novel compelling are the characters, most notably:
A college freshman who is terribly unhappy and lonely but finds a friend/lover when they team up as volunteers.
Two motherless young girls who live with their doomsday prepper father who nonetheless failed to prepare for all potential scenarios.
A couple with a shaky marriage struggles to cope with the needs and demands of a newborn and the threat from the sickness
A young dreamer who unknowingly became pregnant the night before she was struck down and whose parents are sitting vigil at her bedside
A psychiatrist brought in from out of town to assist with studying the dreamers, who now finds herself quarantined away from her young daughter
The sleepers show unusually high brain activity than is considered normal, asleep or awake. Their brains are in a deep REM sleep stage. The strongest narratives in the novel are when we are given glimpses into the character’s lives, past and present, and into the minds of the victims as they dream. Some characters are more fully developed than others and I found myself caring deeply about what happened to them.
Eventually, some dreamers wake up and struggle with assimilating back into their regular lives. The past, present, and future are fluid and they (and we) are left pondering reality and the nature of time. Is there a thin line between dreams and reality? Is there fluidity of time: past, present and future? Are there alternate realities that exist out there in time and space?
The illness itself is not the focus of the novel and few answers are provided, which worked for me but may not for some readers. Some threads are left dangling. Even now, a couple days after finishing, I find myself thinking about it. I appreciated not being spoon fed by the author but allowing her readers to ponder the issues. This would make an excellent book club choice.
Highly recommended for fans of character-driven novels who are looking for something different and who do not require their endings to be neat and tidy.
• Many thanks to NetGalley, Random House, and the author for a digital copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
The Dreamers is a wonderfully eerie and speculative novel about an epidemic that takes hold of a college town, in the form of a gentle disease which causes people to fall into a deep sleep that they cannot be woken from. As long as these individuals can receive medical care and be fed intravenously they are in no immediate danger, but the more people who fall prey to the highly contagious sickness, the more difficult it becomes to look after the sick.
This is a mesmerizing character-driven novel. Station Eleven is going to be brought up frequently in conversation with The Dreamers, and I know that comparing books to other books can get tedious but in this case it's with good reason. Emily St. John Mandel's influence can clearly be seen on the construction of The Dreamers, with its omniscient narration flitting between a panoply of characters who are all affected by the sickness all in different ways, their narratives occasionally intersecting but each with its own distinct arc. But Karen Thompson Walker's novel is not without its own unique spin - the disease is much more contained than the one that devastates civilization in Station Eleven, and consequently this isn't so much a survival novel as it is a novel interested in examining its central concept - sleeping, dreaming - through lenses of disparate psychologies and philosophies and sciences, which all come together to tell a story that's as thought-provoking as it is readable.
The only reason I'm dropping this to 4 stars is that there was a bit too much 'isn't childbirth miraculous aren't babies astonishing' in a few of the characters' narratives and it got to be a bit much for me, but that's strictly a personal preference. Everything else I adored. Karen Thompson Walker's writing is both assured and understated in the best possible way, and the way she builds tension is just spectacular. I could not put this book down.
Thank you to Netgalley, Random House, and Karen Thompson Walker for the advanced copy provided in exchange for an honest review.