Tag Archives: Dystopian Fiction

Review: The Dreamers

The Dreamers

The Dreamers
By Karen Thompson Walker
Random House Trade Paperbacks, 9780812984668, November 2019, 336pp.

The Short of It:

This book originally came out in January 2019, way before our own pandemic hit and yet, the pandemic detailed in this story could have been taken right out of the headlines of today, minus the sleeping illness, of course.

The Rest of It:

The story takes place in the fictional town of Santa Lora, California. Santa Lora is a sleepy little college town (pun intended). Many of its residents work at the local university or at the very least know someone who goes there. In the dorms one day, Mei notices that her roommate is still sleeping although morning has come and gone. Her attempts to wake her are futile. The girl will not wake.

In another part of town, people are falling asleep where they are whether that is in the middle of a jog or walking the family dog. As more and more victims are discovered, the government is called in along with several medical professionals to determine what is actually happening. Is it psychological? Is the water contaminated?

As the story unfolds and the situation becomes more dire, Walker introduces us to the survivors as well as those who will eventually succumb to the sickness. What does it all mean? Why do some wake and others don’t and why are they different after surviving?

So much of this story resonates with me, given the pandemic that we are currently living with. The way the sickness spreads, the lack of understanding in the early days of the sickness, the conspiracy theories hinting at government control. The true winner here is the way Walker plays with dreams and memory. Some of the survivors remember vivid dreams that they had while sleeping. Some feel they are premonitions of the future, others believe they are memories from the past. What’s real anyway?

There are a lot of characters but they are all so distinct and their situations unique enough where I never felt confused over who was who or what was going on. It’s very well done. I cared enough about each of them to worry about their survival and that says a lot.

If you can tolerate a book about a pandemic, and I must say a sleeping sickness sounds a lot better than what we are dealing with now, then pick it up. Someone on FB said that when they read fiction now, they feel uncomfortable when reading about gatherings without masks and the like since they are so conditioned now to meet safely. Well, you won’t have that issue here because masks are the norm in this story.

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: The Memory Police

The Memory Police

The Memory Police
By Yoko Ogawa, Translated by Stephen Snyder
Vintage, 9781101911815, July 2020, 288pp.

The Short of It:

Ethereal and beautiful, tinged with sadness.

The Rest of It:

On a remote island, random objects begin to disappear. Birds, roses, ribbons, etc. The inhabitants wake to a feeling of change yet can’t put their finger on what has changed until they interact with others on the island. The strange thing is that the feeling that the disappearance causes precedes the actual disappearance which is followed through to completion by the inhabitants themselves. So when roses disappear, the inhabitants gather up all the roses to destroy them and send them down a river.

The disappearances are enforced by the Memory Police. How they know when someone is holding out is not explained but if someone tries to preserve something that has disappeared, they are taken away. Eventually, when all traces are removed, most of the inhabitants can no longer recall the item at all. All memory of the item has disappeared as well. But there are some who never forget. The memories of these items remain in them, and for some, they’ve even been able to preserve the actual item, such as a piece of candy. As living becomes more difficult and the situation more dire, you can’t help but compare what is going on with Orwell’s 1984.

The three main characters are for the most part, unnamed. Our protagonist, a young woman, lost both her parents and lives a solitary life. She is a writer and befriended by her editor, only known as “R” and a kind old man who knew her mother. The three navigate these disappearances as best they can but “R” happens to be one of the people who can remember and so he must go into hiding with their help. What will disappear next?

This story is beautifully written. I found myself rereading many passages as I went along. The author’s skill at evoking a particular memory is especially wonderful. I found myself mourning all the things we have lost during this pandemic. The smell of a wonderful meal, served to me in a bustling restaurant filled with laughter and happy people. Or I found myself missing movie theatres and that anticipation you feel when the previews roll or the smell of hot buttered popcorn while sitting back to enjoy a really good film. The story made me feel all kinds of things. Yes, it made me a little sad but also hopeful because I am fairly certain that the tangible things we’ve lost during this pandemic are only temporary losses, not like the ones in the story.

The author’s inspiration was Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl. This makes sense when you consider the hiding that must take place to keep these people safe. The Memory Police is a wonderful read. I have found a new favorite author in Ogawa and can’t wait to read another book by her.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.