Christopher Nolan’s Inception meets Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere in Dreamland, the debut novel from author Robert L. Anderson.
Odea Donahue is a dream walker. She’s been able to access and walk through other people’s dreams since she was about six years old. Her mother, also a dream walker, taught her all of the rules: Don’t interfere, don’t be seen, and never walk through the same person’s dreams twice. It’s always been Dea and her mother moving from place to place, packing up suddenly and for no reason, and walking through dreams to gain their strength. That’s just the way things are.
That is, until Connor moves in across the street from Dea’s newest home. Connor makes Dea feel normal. Alive. Connor affects Dea so much that she finds herself breaking the rules. But the consequences are far more serious than she could have ever imagined. On the run from monsters and the police, Dea must find out how to save herself and her mother, all while trying to figure out the significance of her ability to walk through dreams.
‘Dreamland’ book review
The first thing that always comes to mind nowadays when talking about walking dreams is Inception. It’s inevitable. Dreamland shares quite a few details with Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece, including a similar list of rules for being in dreams, the mind guarding against a dream intruder, and the notion of dreams crumbling into ruins. In fact, we’d be surprised if Dreamland wasn’t inspired by Inception, at least in terms of world-building. That is to say, the dream world created in Dreamland is so intricate and interesting.
It’s also the interesting dream world that evokes a sort of Neverwhere vibe. It’s almost reality, but there’s just something small that’s a little bit off. Though the novel doesn’t spend a lot of time in the dream world (which is a bit of a letdown just because of how interesting and complex it is), it has a personality and richness all its own. It’s the world’s strangeness that really makes it special.
While there are a few comparisons to be made between this novel and other fantastic and well-known works, Dreamland really makes the concept of dream walking all its own. Through his language, Anderson paints a nuanced and complex picture of a world that combines happy memories, fears, and wishes all into one landscape. There isn’t a constant fear or expectation of death as in Inception, which makes for a more enjoyable dream walking experience.
Yes, the dream walking is intriguing, but it’s the real world characters that really keep the reader’s attention. Though Dea isn’t perhaps as “weird” as the other teens in the small town think she is, she’s not the “loner girl gone popular” type, which is really refreshing. She’s content in who she is and doesn’t see the point in changing herself to please others.
Connor is similar in that way. From the author’s description of him, he sounds like he’d easily fit in with the “in crowd.” Yet, he has an emotional and interesting depth to him (as well as a handful of charisma) that makes him jump off the page as someone to look out for and keep an eye on as soon as he’s introduced. While neither Connor nor Dea is really all that “normal” in terms of their separate life experiences, they both have aspects to them that are incredibly relatable.
This is one of those novels that hooks the reader from the beginning and doesn’t let go. Although the novel doesn’t spend nearly enough time in the dream world and leaves a few loose ends open-ended, Dreamland is an entertaining ride from start to finish. You’ll definitely want to give it a read.