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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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SF Site Review: The Book of Dreams

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rich Horton

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Here is a collection of new fantasy short stories on the general subject of dreams. It differs from many such original anthologies in consisting mostly of quite short works -- perhaps one story here is a short novelette, the others short stories. The writers are all established pros, and they all reliably deliver good value. Which in a sense is the problem here -- nobody precisely disappoints, all the stories are enjoyable enough, but nothing here is thrilling, brilliant, especially new.

Robert Silverberg's "The Prisoner" tells of a fairly ordinary man who becomes burdened with terrible dreams, in which the central character is menaced by various things -- drowning, monsters, etc. The key realization is that the central character is not in fact the dreamer -- and that the dreamer can hope to take action to save the other man. Nice enough, but as I suggest, nothing thrilling. Similarly with Lucius Shepard's "Dream Burgers at the Mouth of Hell," which takes on Hollywood in familiar terms, though in an original fashion. Shepard is funny, and he has a heck of an imagination. The problem here -- though on the whole not a serious problem -- is that the subject of the story seems a bit hackneyed. The basic idea is simple: a screenwriter is invited by a big time movie executive to come to a special place for dinner -- a place called the Mouth of Hell, where he will learn the price of entry to the inner circles of Hollywood power. Minor stuff, basically, but quite slickly executed.

"Testaments," by Jay Lake, lets us witness six historical figures ("six sleeping kings"), in general somewhat familiar to us, though transformed by Lake's revisionist narration, as their views of their own places in history are transformed by dream encounters with things that might be angels. Interesting, but it didn't deliver for me. Perhaps my favorite story here is Kage Baker's "Rex Nemorensis," in which a crazy Vietnam vet learns that he has inherited a plot of land. Legal problems seem to prevent him taking possession, but he squats there anyway, only to learn that it is a stranger place than he had thought, and also to learn that his skills, and his mindset, make him particularly fit to inhabit this odd place. The tale has a nice twist buried in its form of narration. Finally, Jeffery Ford, in "86 Deathdick Road," tells of a very dream-like visit a man and his wife make to a remote house, inhabited by "the Smartest Man in the World," who will answer one question for some lucky people. More than any of the other stories, this one seemed to evoke a true dream landscape.

As I say above, The Book of Dreams is enjoyable work -- all the writers are consummate pros, and they deliver very competent work. But it's a mild disappointment, as only one story, Baker's, rises much above competence -- at least to my taste, and even that, while interesting, isn't quite a great story.

Copyright © 2010 Rich Horton

Rich Horton is an eclectic reader in and out of the SF and fantasy genres. He's been reading SF since before the Golden Age (that is, since before he was 13). Born in Naperville, IL, he lives and works (as a Software Engineer for the proverbial Major Aerospace Company) in St. Louis area and is a regular contributor to Tangent. Stop by his website at http://www.sff.net/people/richard.horton.


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