The Dreamers, by Karen Thompson Walker
In a small California town, a college freshman complains of feeling sick, falls asleep… and doesn’t wake up. Soon, there are more cases like hers—otherwise healthy individuals suddenly overcome by fatigue they can’t shake. Once they are asleep, nothing can wake them from their slumber. Soon, the mysterious illness sweeps through the town like the wildfires carried by the Santa Ana winds. Within weeks, the entire town is under quarantine, and chaos erupts as stores run out of supplies and the National Guard is called in.
The Dreamers is a clever mix of dystopian and literary fiction, comparable to Station Eleven. The narrative weaves between several different characters, offering a complex perspective not only on the effects of the sleeping sickness, but of the grim, inexorable results of the mandatory quarantine. Characters who remain awake must contend with the disorder and panic taking place around them. Some choose to help those who have fallen sick; others make the difficult choice to remain locked in their house in the hopes their loved ones will return to them.
To make the illness even more bizarre, the medical staff taking care of the sleepers all observe the same thing—those who are asleep are displaying abnormal levels of brain activity, indicating they are in a ceaseless state of dreaming. And the few characters who manage to awake report strange, vivid dreams, dreams that feel more real than reality itself.
This is a great read, filled with lovely prose, high stakes, suspense, and engaging characters. For a book about people trapped in a deep sleep, The Dreamers is sure to keep its readers wide awake until the very end.
Review by Shannon Bowring, Technical Services
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