WAKING IN DREAMLAND
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Jody Lynn Nye has created an existential fantasy world based on the interpretation of dreams in Waking in Dreamland, the first of a series of novels. Set in a world created by the collective subconscious of seven Sleepers, Nye relates the quest of one of the King's Investigators as he seeks to save the world from a scientist who seems bent on waking the Sleepers and destroying the fabric of the world.
The strength of Waking in Dreamland is Nye's world-building. She has taken the topsy-turvy realm of dreams, in which things do not have to make sense, and codifies the illogic of dreams. Her band of adventurers must deal with a world with a few set rules and known dangers. Along the way, they continuously come across the strange. Because the Dreamlands can take any form based on the subconscious minds of the Sleepers, the characters must figure out what is happening and why, allowing Nye to inform her readers.
The Dreamlands are Jungian in nature, drawing their form and reality from the collective unconscious. In this book, Nye doesn't explore the possibilities of a portion of the Dreamlands following more Freudian views of dreams, although she may well elect to follow that idea in one of the future novels in the series.
Nye introduces a number of interesting issues. Unfortunately, many of them are not fully explored in Waking in Dreamland. Foremost of these is the ethics of science. The novel begins with Brom setting off in his search for knowledge despite the King's order not to pursue his experiment which could possibly endanger the Dreamlands. In an anti-scientific manner, Nye's characters decide Brom must be insane. Nye raises the issue of scientific responsibility, but dilutes it by providing a knee-jerk reaction to the possible negative consequences without any real exploration of what those consequences are. On the other hand, she has Brom, for whom knowledge is everything and the consequences don't matter. An attempt to discover a medium between these two positions would have been welcome.
In addition to Roan, the King's Investigator who has the strange habit of always retaining his form, Nye includes several characters, both in his party and in Brom's cadre. Many of the characters come across as stock characters, although there are intriguing items scattered throughout the novel. Brom and his people have managed to form a gestalt consciousness which gives them the ability to link minds and power. When a spy is placed within Roan's group, however, this man has no part of the gestalt mentality to aid him in his spying. At the same time, the gestalt concept makes treason to Brom more difficult for his gang of renegade scientists.
Roan's love interest, who requites his love, is the Princess Leonora, a paradigm of beautiful princesses in whatever form she happens to take. Their relationship seems a little contrived. Mixed with the romantic formality which accompanies much of the novel, this relationship detracts from the interesting world Nye has created. This romantic element is heightened by the frequently hackneyed and clichéd dialogue between characters, although this dialogue appears to be intentional to strengthen the non-reality of the Dreamlands.
Throughout the book, there are echoes of earlier science fiction and fantasy stories. The power of name and word magic is apparent throughout and one of the clearest homages in the book is in the form of the bicycles used by the characters as a reference to the works of Avram Davidson.
Waking in Dreamland introduces a realm which is open to a variety of interpretations. Furthermore, the ground rules Nye has laid allow for the continual reinvention of the world to present any type of story in any genre. While this idea could have been stream of consciousness in other hands, Nye and her characters do manages to hold rein on the setting and activities. Future novels can use the Dreamlands as a springboard for the examination of ethical and psychological issues.
Purchase this book from in paperback.