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The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters
Gordon Dahlquist
Bantam, 480/417 pages

Gordon Dahlquist
Gordon Dahlquist is a native of the Pacific Northwest, where he worked for several years writing and directing plays. Since 1988 he has lived in New York. He has been a member of New Dramatists, is a New York Theatre Workshop Usual Suspect, and a founding member of the CiNE. His works include Messalina (Evidence Room, Los Angeles: SPF, New York), text for Babylon Is Everywhere: A Court Masque (CiNE, Schaeberle Theatre; Theatre Magazine), Delirium Palace (Evidence Room, Los Angeles; published in Breaking Ground), The Secret Machine (Twilight Theatre Company at Solo Rep), Vortex du Plaisir (Ice Factory '99 Festival at the Ohio Theatre, WKCR'S Manhattan Theatre of the Air), Island of Dogs (4th Street Theatre), Severity's Mistress (Soho Rep Theatre, New York University; winner of Primary stages' Bug &Bub award), Mission Byzantium! (American Globe Theatre, NYTW's Just Add Water Festival), and Reitcence (Horace Mann Theatre).

He has written and directed several experimental films, that have been selected for the San Francisco International Film Festival, the Seattle International Film Festival, and the Northwest Film and Video Film Festival. He is a graduate of Reed College and Columbia University's School of the Arts. He has received two Garland Playwriting Awards for Messalina and Delirium Palace.

The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters is his first novel.

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SF Site Review: The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nathan Brazil

'The air in the Institute laboratory had been pungent with ozone, burning rubber, and a particular odour Svenson did not recognise -- a cross between sulfur, sodium, and the iron smell of scorched blood.'
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The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters
The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters
The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters is one of those books that elicits comparisons with the classics, and, by so doing, arches the incredulous eyebrows of prospective readers. The book has been variously described as like Dickens, Sherlock Holmes and H. Rider Haggard, mostly by other writers. The premise is three very different characters, all of whom become embroiled in the same nefarious conspiracy. At heart, it is a good old-fashioned mystery, with plenty of action to keep things lively. But can it be as good as the illustrious names mentioned above, or do we have another case of Emperor's New Clothes?

In setting out his stall, the author constructs a convincing version of an early industrial age in an imagined European city. Given that this is also a time of moral repressiveness, he adds an element of eroticism, craftily providing a hint of the forbidden. The three main protagonists are Miss Celeste Temple, an heiress with a troubled love life, Cardinal Chang, an assassin who is neither of the things that his name suggest, and Dr. Abelard Svenson, an aging, former army field-surgeon, now tasked with minding a libertine Prince. It's an interesting mix of characters who, on the surface, have nothing in common. Bubbling away around all the trio attempt, is a bilious brew of alchemy, perverted religion, and lust for supreme power. Elements which are hardly original, yet imbued with a sumptuousness crossed with brittle violence, and brushed by a dark undercurrent. On occasions this felt like a nod to "The Story of O." Although, I must make it clear that the erotic content here is infinitely more subtle. The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters earns its plaudits as a book influenced by the styles of an earlier day, but with the advantage of imagination informed by the twenty-first Century.

The narrative tends toward a slow, slow, quick, quick, slow format, which will not be to everyone's taste. Nevertheless, for those willing to wade through the occasional patch of literary treacle, the rewards are many. Celeste Temple, Cardinal Chang and Dr. Svenson take diverse paths toward their very different goals, which are ultimately facets of the same mystery. The dialogue sometimes meanders a little too much, and in so doing flirts with dullness, but mostly avoids tumbling into boredom. The Glass Books themselves are a fascinating concept, loaded with intrigue and dark promise. Ultimately, the three adventures are woven together into a thoroughly immersive, patchwork quilt of a story, which cleverly and creatively melds its themes. The only real negative here, is that the book is a little too long-winded, and could have done with more vigorous editing. That said, for those who prize fiction over science, The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters has all the dash and flair needed to make it stand out from the crowd.

Copyright © 2011 Nathan Brazil

Nathan Brazil
If Nathan Brazil were dyslexic, he'd be the dog of the Well world. In reality, he's an English bloke who lives on an island, reading, writing and throwing chips to the seagulls. Drop by his web site at www.inkdigital.org.


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