Graham Joyce,
(Pan, 1991; Tor, 2000)

Graham Joyce takes readers to the other side of sleep in Dreamside, his debut novel finally made available in the United States.

Lee Peterson is haunted by a dreaming phenomenon which he has not experienced in years, and his suspicions about it are confirmed when he is reunited with his three closest friends from college: Ella, Honora and Brad. The reunion is hardly a happy one for any of them.

All four met thirteen years previously while participating in a seminar on lucid dreaming, where the dreamer is in conscious control of the dream. Their progress is such that the enthusiastic and charismatic seminar leader, Professor Burns, invites them to continue with further studies once the seminar concludes.

They take lucid dreaming to new levels, finally achieving the ability to meet within their dreams at a place they call Dreamside. The experiences are wonderful, if frightening at times, but the idyll is shattered suddenly and horribly, and the four friends separate, abandoning the dreaming and Dreamside.

But over a decade later, someone has returned to Dreamside, and the dreaming begins again. The four must take action immediately or else be trapped in the dream forever, for the line between waking and dreaming has become blurred to the point of invisibility and time is running out.

As the story progresses, the dreamlike quality of the narrative intensifies and the tension and horror mount proportionately. Graham successfully captures the surreal qualities of the world of dreams, choosing images with which the reader easily identifies and involving the reader more closely with the characters. The four each have distinct personalities, with Lee's distinction being a kind of neutrality which offsets and balances the dynamics of the other four. Each character has a strength to contribute to the effort -- just as each has a weakness which makes him or her vulnerable.

I didn't notice that this was Joyce's first novel until after I had read it. While that explains the rough patches in the novel in retrospect, I found it as gripping as I have his other novels. True, the writing becomes a bit opaque at the end, and the characters are less complex than those in Requiem or The Tooth Fairy, but it is clear that Joyce hit the ground running with Dreamside -- certainly a writer's dream come true.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]

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