Title: The Dreamers
Author: Karen Thompson Walker
Expected Publication January 15, 2019 by Random House
“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?”
“At first, they blame the air.
It’s an old idea, a poison in the ether, a danger carried in by the wind. A strange haze is seen drifting through town on that first night, the night the trouble begins. It arrives like weather, or like smoke, some say later, but no one can locate any fire. Some blame the drought, which has been bleeding away the lake for years, and browning the air with dust.”
The Dreamers is a stunning third person narrative that takes place near Los Angeles, in a fictional town called Santa Lora, California. Mei’s roommate, Kara, falls asleep, then over a few days her breath and heart rate slow, until she dies. After a few students fall into the deep sleep, their dorm is put under quarantine. The illness slips through the cracks and spreads throughout the town. As hundreds of people fall asleep and began to dream, we meet many people affected by the mysterious illness, who are trying their best not to infect the ones they love.
“This is how the sickness travels best: through all the same channels as do fondness and friendship and love.”
I was hooked after the first paragraph. The characters are extremely well-written. They feel like people I could know in real life. The connection to characters, pacing, mystery, description, and writing style work together to create a fantastic work of fiction.
The ending felt abrupt, and left me with unanswered questions.
The Dreamers is a memorable and entertaining read that I recommend to readers who enjoy character-driven, thought-provoking Sci-Fi novels with an open ending.
Thank you to Netgalley and publisher for the complimentary copy in exchange for my honest review.
*Quotes taken from an ARC copy and subject to change*
“Karen Thompson Walker is the author of the New York Times bestselling novel The Age of Miracles, which has been translated into twenty-seven languages and named one of the best books of the year by People, O: The Oprah Magazine, and Financial Times, among others. Born and raised in San Diego, Walker is a graduate of UCLA and the Columbia MFA program. She lives with her husband, the novelist Casey Walker, and their two daughters in Portland. She is an assistant professor of creative writing at the University of Oregon.” http://karenthompsonwalker.com/bios/karen-thompson-walker