At first, they blame the air.
It’s an old idea, a poison in the ether, a danger carried in by the wind. A strange haze is seen drifting through town on that first night, the night the trouble begins. It arrives like weather, or like smoke, some say later, but no one can locate any fire. Some blame the drought which, for years, has been bleeding away the lake and browning the air with dust. Whatever this is, it comes over the town quietly: a sudden drowsiness, a closing of the eyes. Most of the victims are found in their beds.
One night, in an isolated college town in the hills of Southern California, a first-year student stumbles into her bedroom, falls asleep—and doesn’t wake up.
She sleeps through the morning, into the evening. Her roommate cannot rouse her. Neither can the paramedics who carry the girl away, nor the perplexed doctors at the hospital.
Then a second girl falls asleep, and a third, and panic takes hold of the college and spreads to the town….
The Dreamers was a lyrical, beautifully immersive novel, taking the premise of an unknown virus spreading throughout an unsuspecting small town and within that exploring intriguing themes of time and memory.
It starts at a college, a girl goes to sleep and simply does not wake up. Like domino’s more fall, slowly spreading outwards – scientists, Doctors, specialists, arriving in droves but nobody knows what this sickness is or how to cure it. The one certain thing is that all these sleepers are busy dreaming…
Through the eyes of various town inhabitants, we watch this strange and unpredictable illness occur, see the town cut off, feel the low key panic, the helplessness and the worry. As the outside world watches, time is an elusive thing for these few, as it is it seems for those struck by the virus. It is a clever narrative, a fully formed character drama – the emphasis being very much on the human condition, how we distinguish dreams from reality, if indeed we can at all…and how we cope with untenable situations where resolution seems impossible.
I loved this because it ignored the usual trope of people fighting over scraps, hurting each other, but showed how we both isolate ourselves and come together in times of trauma. The differing personalities we meet give a snapshot of time, an enclosed event where only those in it can know it. The author gives outcomes but allows the reader to consider the possibilities – It is melancholy and thought provoking.
I loved it. A little dark delight.