The Dreamersby Karen Thompson Walker Published 15 Jan 2019
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In an isolated college town in the hills of Southern California, a freshman girl stumbles into her dorm room, falls asleep—and doesn’t wake up. She sleeps through the morning, into the evening. Her roommate, Mei, cannot rouse her. Neither can the paramedics who carry her away, nor the perplexed doctors at the hospital. Then a second girl falls asleep, and then another, and panic takes hold of the college and spreads to the town. As the number of cases multiplies, classes are canceled, and stores begin to run out of supplies. A quarantine is established. The National Guard is summoned.
Mei, an outsider in the cliquish hierarchy of dorm life, finds herself thrust together with an eccentric, idealistic classmate. Two visiting professors try to protect their newborn baby as the once-quiet streets descend into chaos. A father succumbs to the illness, leaving his daughters to fend for themselves. And at the hospital, a new life grows within a college girl, unbeknownst to her—even as she sleeps. A psychiatrist, summoned from Los Angeles, attempts to make sense of the illness as it spreads through the town. Those infected are displaying unusual levels of brain activity, more than has ever been recorded. They are dreaming heightened dreams—but of what?
"The Dreamers" Reviews
I stepped right out of my comfort zone with The Dreamers. I usually stay miles away from anything that has a sci-fi or surreal feel. But I read so many positive reviews of The Dreamers that I became curious. And I must confess that I had requested an advance copy without realizing what it was about. So I dipped my toe in the first few pages and got hooked. In fact, I loved it. The premise is simple. A small isolated university town in California is hit with a sleeping disease. It starts with a few students and then spreads to many people in the town. The story is told in a somewhat dreamy tone, shifting between different characters whose lives intersect in various ways as they are caught up in the effects of this mysterious illness. The fabulous writing and the depiction of the characters and their various reactions are what had me glued to this book. It made for an intense reading experience — leaving me with lots of food for thought. It wasn’t quite a 5 star read because I felt like the story got a bit bogged down in the middle, but it was awfully close to 5 stars. Again, the writing was just phenomenal. I’m definitely not a convert to sci-fi or speculative fiction or whatever genre this book would fall in, but the door is no longer shut as firmly. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy.
An epidemic of perpetual sleep strikes a small town.
Many are "trapped" not by a captor, but by their own slumber.
I was captivated immediately from page one. A frightful opening made me ever so curious to read on...
This author's writing style was mesmerizing and magical . I was absorbed in her words and the fictional town in California. Literary fiction at its best without needless side stories or wasted dialogue. The story flows effortlessly and I adored it.
It begins with some college dorm students falling ill, into a sleepliness, a dizziness, a state of "dreaming." As the sleep virus spreads so does the frequency of townspeople wearing hospital masks and blue latex gloves. There is a growing " buzz of panic and gloom ". Some of terrified of the sensation of sleepiness. Nathaniel believes that "hysteria over the illness is the real disease of the era."
As the cases balloon out of control, no one can stop the unstoppable dreaming state. Some believe it could be a hoax. What is real? What is a dream?
I adored this story, the magical writing and the tension building suspense. Totally bewitching read. Highly recommend!
I borrowed this one from my local library and it is Available NOW.
I picked up “The Dreamers” because the premise sounded very similar to one of my favorite books, “The Leftovers” by Tom Perrotta. “The Leftovers” follows the lives of characters that find themselves questioning their existence after millions of people vanish from Earth without any explanation. Karen Thompson Walker manages to write about the same kinds of themes as Perrotta, but she makes it her own by using a much more surreal writing style. The writing style matches the title perfectly. I’m a sucker for books that are about existential dread and “The Dreamers” was compelling for me throughout the entire novel.
The story follows multiple characters as they realize that there is a mysterious illness falling upon the town of Santa Lora, California. People are falling asleep and not waking up. The illness has such a large effect on the town that they have to quarantine the population to get the illness under control. With scientists and doctors baffled by the cause of the illness, the people who haven’t caught the sleep sickness are left trying to figure out how to keep some feeling of normal. “People don’t know what to say, there’s nothing to say.”
The book has a plot, but it’s not the main focus of the book. The main focus is the characters and how they deal with these unfortunate and unexplained events. The characters range from a college aged girl falling in love to a married couple struggling to make sense of the world as they try and raise their newborn daughter. There were some characters I liked more than others, but I’m certain that anyone reading the novel will cling to certain characters and perhaps see themselves in the actions and feelings of more than one character throughout the story. The theme of how characters handle uncertainty in the world struck me and sat with me. It’s still sitting with me.
“All the days are such a darkness, that all of us move through our hours as if blindfolded, never knowing what will happen next.”
Our experience in this world is personal and different for everyone but it’s novels like “The Dreamers” that make us feel more connected to the human experience. When bad things happen we all try to look for answers, but in the end the answers are found within ourselves and the people around us, not necessarily in the chaotic and unpredictable world we live in.
Enter la-la land.....
This was a fascinating-eerie story. Mysterious right from the beginning.
Head-scratching puzzle of a novel....
We keep hearing how important sleep is- that lack of sleep is the cause for many health issues.
Perhaps this college town with hundreds sleeping are revitalizing their minds and body. Too many college exams and late night parties are a health hazard.
I had a little fun with this novel - my own cuckoo mind was captured by the dreamy-atmosphere. As the characters fell into dreamland... so did I.
I thought about walk-out strikes from jobs-
Then chuckled at the thought of a town going on strike from being awake. Why not?
Maybe in the way natural forest fires are nature’s way of cleaning out the earth...
a sleeping town rests to replenish the health of humanity.
This book gave me the *Willy-Chillies* - at times - yet there was so much beauty in the writing. It was dystopia without horror.
The stories - characters - prose - were all compelling!!!
Great exploration of the unconscious - awake or asleep.....what’s the difference?
Mystery land of dreamland ..
Do we dream of our past? Our future?
Is ‘awake’ life really any more real than dream life?
Again... hell if I know!
Kudos to the author -
Very creative novel of the unknown world.
Guess I need to read “The Age of Miracles”.
These days, science doesn’t take much interest in dreams.
2½ stars. I'm rating this purely based on my personal enjoyment and connection with the narrative. Some people are going to love this book.
I read Walker's The Age of Miracles more than six years ago, didn't love it, but wanted to give her another try. I know my tastes have changed. Maybe even the author had changed, too. As it turns out, my review of her debut is fairly similar to how I feel about The Dreamers, comma splices aside.
This book is full of dreamy hypnotic prose. I can count on one hand the amount of books where this style has worked for me. In fact, right now, I can't actually think of one. There's this sense that you are looking down on everything from a distance; through a haze. It is written in third person and moves through small chapters - vignettes, almost - with many different people who I never felt a connection to.
The Dreamers' premise is virtually identical to King's Sleeping Beauties, except here the sleeping sickness can affect men and appears to be contagious. The major difference, I feel, is in how much we are pulled into the characters lives. Sleeping Beauties was not a fast-paced book, but I felt very drawn into the drama. With a page count almost twice as long as this book, it's hardly surprising that there was far more character development.
In the first few chapters of The Dreamers, a girl dies under mysterious circumstances, her friends and parents mourn, and it is all narrated with such bizarre detachment. The sleeping sickness spreads from there and the author explores how it affects many different lives. Some of this is interesting; some of it feels repetitive.
It is a book for those who enjoy sleepy, beautifully-written novels. The characters won't stay with me, personally, nor should you come into this expecting a satisfying sci-fi story in which things are explained. Much like dreams, a lot doesn't make sense in this book. What I will probably remember the longest are the quotes that touched me. Such as this one:
This is how the sickness travels best: through all the same channels as do fondness and friendship and love.
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This was magic. Highly recommend, but for a very specific audience. If you enjoy having tons of characters (that you don't necessarily get time to connect with or "like") and appreciate a vague, mysterious tone through to the end...get to it. 4.5 stars.