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The Book of Dreams
edited by Nick Gevers
Subterranean Press, 117 pages

The Book of Dreams
Nick Gevers
Nick Gevers was born in Oxford, England, but has lived in Cape Town, South Africa, most of his life. Known for his book and short fiction reviews and his interviews which have appeared in The Washington Post Book World, Interzone, Scifi.com, SF Site and The New York Review of Science Fiction, he writes two monthly review columns for Locus. He is senior editor at PS Publishing and he co-edits PS's quarterly anthology series, Postscripts, and is editor of the anthologies Infinity Plus (Solaris, 2007, with Keith Brooke), Extraordinary Engines (Solaris, 2008), and Other Earths (DAW, 2009, with Jay Lake).

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A review by Mario Guslandi

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Dreams disturb us, scare us, haunt us. Dreams provide us with unearthly experiences, make us reach the unreachable. Calderon de la Barca wrote that La vida es sueno (Life is but a dream). So, what better subject for a theme anthology? And if you invite to contribute five masters of fantastic fiction the expected result should be a great book. Wrong. Life may be a dream or not but it is certainly unpredictable and nothing can be taken for granted. The Book of Dreams, alas, is a mediocre collection of stories by celebrated, great authors who, for some reason, appear to be rather uninspired.

Robert Silverberg ("The Prisoner") draws a cold, unemotional portrait of a man obsessed with his nocturnal dreams where a person is in constant danger and cries for help. To say that I was expecting much more from a literary giant like him is an understatement.

"Dream Burgers At The Mouth of Hell" by Lucius Shepard is a tongue-in-cheek story revealing the source of Hollywood scriptwriters' inspiration (dreams generated by dope, in other words, just hallucinations). Entertaining but far from memorable.

Jay Lake contributes "Testament," an obscure piece of fantasy written in an elegant style where dreams and reality mix in an ambiguous fashion, leaving the reader fascinated but extremely puzzled. Or did I miss its meaning entirely?

In Kage Baker's "Rex Nemorensis," a Vietnam veteran finds his own jungle and dreams his own dreams far from the civilized world. A fair enough story, but one that you'll forget as soon as you turn the last page.

Jeffry Ford's "86 Deathdick Road," although not up to the author's usual high standard, is the best story in the volume. A dazzling tour de force featuring "the smartest man in the world," a bored husband, a still attractive wife and a tedious old lady telling implausible anecdotes, the tale is at least funny and enjoyable, although a bit off the subject.

In short, the anthology represents a missed opportunity which, in my opinion, would deserve a second attempt with different, more motivated authors.

Copyright © 2010 by Mario Guslandi

Mario Guslandi lives in Milan, Italy, and is a long-time fan of dark fiction. His book reviews have appeared on a number of genre websites such as The Alien Online, Infinity Plus, Necropsy, The Agony Column and Horrorwold.


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