Steven Harper,
(Roc, 2002)

A novel of the Silent Empire, Steven Harper's Nightmare is a prequel to his first novel Dreamer and delves into the background of its protagonist, Kendi Weaver.

He started life as Evan Weaver, living in Australia with his parents, brother and sister. At age 12, he and his family boarded a spaceship where they "slept" for 900 years, their destination a planet where they would be part of a colony of Real People Reconstructionists, descendants of Australian aborigines seeking to recapture and rebuild their heritage and culture.

Instead, slavers commandeer the ship, and Evan and his family are sold, Evan and his mother to the same mistress. A few years later, he learns that he is one of the "Silent," those who can travel distances in their dreams. He is rescued by the Children of Irfan, an organization dedicated to finding and freeing enslaved Silent and offering them training and education. This is when Even chooses his name "Kendi" after the frill-necked lizard from the Outback.

As Kendi learns how to master his raw talent, his new mentor, Mother Ara, becomes involved with an investigation of a series of murders of the Silent while they are in their dream state. Kendi witnesses one of the murders and becomes involved in the investigation as well.

Harper not only develops a nifty science-fiction concept, but he puts together a darn good mystery as well. There are multiple potential suspects and plenty of tension and suspense wrapped in an easily flowing narrative with broad appeal to a range of readers. Interwoven into the story is the development of Kendi's sexual identity, which is neither portrayed as a hopeless impediment nor handled glibly.

Good storytelling and interesting, well-rounded characters led me to go out and get a copy of Dreamer, and I look forward to future travels in the Silent Empire.

- Rambles
written by Donna Scanlon
published 15 February 2003

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