The twelfth book I’m reviewing here is Jenna Whittaker’s standalone novel Dreamscape. It’s a work of fantasy, though it doesn’t quite fit into any fantasy sub-genre that I’m familiar with. I almost want to say that Whittaker has established an entirely new fantasy sub-genre with it, but I’ll need to see if there are many similar books before jumping to that conclusion.
In the story, god-like beings vie for power in an alternate dimension called the Dreamscape. The mortal world suffers for the struggles between the gods, with the god Watcher and his allies The Sisters serving on the side of good and the cyborg-goddess Machina opposing them. To check Machina’s power, the gods execute a plan to have one of their number, the god Keeper, born in the form of a human named Khalos. As a human, he has no memory of his divinity or his power, and the main narrative follows him as he tries to work out who he is and why he’s in his position. I find the premise absolutely fascinating. It alludes to a variety of mythic and religious figures going back for thousands of years (Jesus, Krishna, every demigod-figure) and leads the reader to imagine the confusion and pain that would come with such a role.
The world of the Dreamscape has fantasy elements both familiar and unique. The gods manifest their power in different forms there, magic is carried out through singing, and mighty black gryphons travel between the world of the gods and the world of humans as the need dictates. The world of the humans in the novel seemed for the most part to be medieval-ish, but really that wasn’t clear to me. There seemed to be some modern conventions in it, so it’s hard to say.
One reason it’s hard to say the precise nature of the world is the author’s particular style of writing. The story is slow. There’s not a ton of concrete description, instead we spent most of the story inside of Khalos’s head and experiencing the world through his confused thoughts as he processes the mysteries that he encounters. The two adjectives that best describe the slow style, in my opinion, are ‘contemplative’ and ‘dreamlike’. Fans of fast-paced action and razor-sharp dialogue probably won’t enjoy this style. Personally, I loved it. It was different, but it was never boring. It’s a stretch, but it brought to my mind some aspects of the style of W. Somerset Maugham.
One problem does arise from this style though, and it served as a detractor at certain points. When the story does call for action, its impact is lost. This is especially prominent near the end of the story. There is fighting and warfare, but the dreamlike style softens it a little too much.
Overall, the book is both strong and unique, and I enjoyed every minute I spent reading it. It’s unique to the point that I can’t say exactly who the best target audience would be, but patient and thoughtful readers who enjoy fantasy and mythology should take pleasure in it.
And now as always, the plug. If you liked this book review, you can see my others here: