2. Dreamscapes

1

It took me a while to figure out they were extracting dreams in general, not just the viral nightmares, as they extracted the sleep.

There was a comment toward the end of “Field Trip” (page 73 in my edition) where Trish talks about dreaming “in tandem with dozens of other moviegoers.”

The Night World seemed particularly dreamlike, even before they drank the concoctions designed to wake them up or put them to sleep.

Some of Russell’s language in general felt dreamlike, even in settings that weren’t overtly oriented toward dreams. (More on that in my question about language.)

The end of the book is about seeing yourself wake up and characterizes that as a viral nightmare.

How are we dreaming in tandem in the real world? What does she want us to wake up to? Is seeing yourself wake up a nightmare? When an individual wakes up, does it disrupt the communal dream, thus setting off a viral nightmare?

What is it about dreams in this book?

Comments

  • 2

    Before I started reading this book for the second time, I read a number of reviews. I gave this 5 stars after my first reading, 4 after my second. But I was surprised to see a lot or low reviews - on average the GoodReads rating is about 3.5. Why the low ratings. I began to read through them and saw a lot of comments like: "This books makes no sense" and "The situation is highly implausible". (There were also some that said the author used too many weird words like 'ungulate' and shouldn't expect their readers to have a PhD in Green history - which I though said a lot more about the reviewers than about the book).

    At the time I read these reviews, I thought "this person has really missed the point". But it took me a while to formulate why I thought this. My conclusion was the the book is not ever meant to be taken literally. It's a metaphor for problems of the industrialized world. And it's a metaphor for our relationship with ethics. In exactly the way dreams are metaphors for the anxieties of our daily lives. This book is a dream. Its a dream about trying to cope as an imperfect person living in an imperfect world, with close imperfect friends. That's what it is about dream s in this book.

    Speaking of dreams, they interviewed Margaret Atwood recently on CBC's nghtly news program, The National, and she asked the reviewer if she had had Covid dreams. Then she described her own, of being at some gala or party where nobody wore masks. I realized I had not had a single Covid dream. In fact, I had not have any memorable dream of any kind in as long as I could remember. But last night I finally did have a dream. It wasn't a Covid dream, but it might have been inspired by The Islanders. My wife and I were travelling in Turkey and visiting parks and places with dangerous animals and caves. There was also a weird bureaucracy, even at the pharmacy. And a library. And a fat-faced tour guide. And for some reason I kept showing up late for appointments.

  • 1

    @Apocryphal said:

    At the time I read these reviews, I thought "this person has really missed the point". But it took me a while to formulate why I thought this. My conclusion was the the book is not ever meant to be taken literally. It's a metaphor for problems of the industrialized world. And it's a metaphor for our relationship with ethics.

    In my limited reading, I thought it cleaved too closely to questions about blood donation, and was little more than a somewhat fictionalised essay about some recent concerns about it. If it was a wider commentary, I missed that entirely.

  • 0
    I could never quite work out if the basic idea was that people wanted "pure sleep" ie ideally in the book's world without any dreams at all, or else "sleep with only nice dreams not nightmares". In case (1) then any dreams at all were at best an accidental side effect and at worst a pollutant. In case (2) then the bad dreams are the pollutants.

    But in either case, I'm not sure I find the premise credible. Sure, people need ordinary sleep to repair body parts, but we also need dreaming sleep to process what's happened in the day. Lots of people (including me, most nights) don't remember their dreams, but they are fulfilling an essential function whether remembered or not, and whether they have a good or bad emotional impact.

    Now, I don't mind an author playing with an idea which is speculative, and I get that this was a rather short story and one which wasn't really focusing on the scientific underpinning of the content... but since transfer between people of sleep and dreams was at the very heart of the story, I wanted more attention to this.

    In answer to @Apocryphal 's comment about rating this book, 3.5 is pretty much what I'd give it. A bit disappointing to be so average on this occasion, but there you go. The concept was potentially interesting, but as mentioned I felt it was lazy about the foundations, and I just didn't enjoy the writing style.
  • 2

    I definitely people who fault this word on its believability are missing the point. Oddly, the more fantastical a world is (say, Star Wars) the less people are likely to complain that it's unrealistic. I guess that is a result of its hitting you over the head right away with "THIS IS FANTASY!" in a way that Sleep Donation doesn't. Aside from the premise, it has a feeling of reality.

    This reminds me of Snow Piercer. I haven't watched the TV show. The movie was fun/interesting. I never once took the premise seriously -- it is utterly ridiculous. But within the framework of that ridiculous premise, things progress realistically to a point. (Is that really just a definition of science fiction?) Ultimately it's a "what if?" What if the next pandemic is a kind of sleep-deprivation-virus, and what if people could donate extra sleep to others? It's more than a writing exercise. It's a way of observing human nature, how they behave (or how we imagine they would behave) within an odd context. I could as easily say (and some SF authors have) what if we all lived in a carefully controlled biosphere (wherever) and our lives were heavily regulated. Who would be happy, if anyone? How would unhappiness express itself? What would people do to seek happiness within (or not within) the framework of societal rules?

  • 2

    On this line of thought, and I realize I'm straying away from the text some. I remember making everyone "read" Horse Mastery - an interactive fiction game in which you are a person raising a "horse" (hint, it's totally not a horse) for some kind of competition. It's bizarre and (IMO) kind of brilliant. Anyway, the author of that game recently made another one about living in a moon colony. (Actually you get to choose earth or moon in the beginning.) It's a kind of simulation that reinforces a concept. I only played the moon, but there I was part of a farming community and I got to choose how to work my land and what seed to plant, though the government usually told me what I should plant. No matter what I did things got steadily worse, with a few lucky aberrations. But somehow, if I skirted the line of legality I did a little better (e.g. growing coffee or marijuana over soy beans). And the best parts of the game were the (very) few instances were I got involved in something elicit - like growing a single lock of hair (everyone on the moon is basically bald) or writing a kind of exquisite corpse novel. Anyway, I kind of love these immersive thought exercises and that's what Sleep Donation feels like to me. (Long way to go to make a really basic point, but there you are.)

  • 1

    I found the world believable, and I loved the touches about the consequences of such a widespread problem. I wasn't that keen on it as a metaphor for anything specific, just sort of "modern day ennui" - and on another level, the bringing her sister back to life to bring new recruits in. The power of that oral reincarnation definitely spoke to me.

    I did like the dreamlike quality of the prose that miraculously didn't annoy me - right up until the end, or should I say, where it stops telling the story. Having a bunch of pages after the non-ending as world artefacts **just where they could have put an actual ending **was a sudden annoyance that I can't quite get over... I get that it's meant to be like a dream, but that's still a bit rubbish for me.

  • 0

    @BurnAfterRunning said:
    I did like the dreamlike quality of the prose that miraculously didn't annoy me - right up until the end, or should I say, where it stops telling the story. Having a bunch of pages after the non-ending as world artefacts **just where they could have put an actual ending **was a sudden annoyance that I can't quite get over... I get that it's meant to be like a dream, but that's still a bit rubbish for me.

    Very well put :)

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