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TPG’s Tasters: The Dream Guild, by David Bruns (pt (2/2)

April 27, 2014

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Yesterday, we took a first peek at David Bruns’ The Dream Guild, a YA sci-fi book in which dreams are in fact reality and act as a bridge between two separate planets. From the blurb, I quickly came to imagine a fast paced and action-packed storyline, centred around the use of dream-related powers. And by “dream-related” powers, I of course mean any kind of powers imaginable: we are, after all, talking about dreams here.

So…yeah. From the blurb, this is definitely something I would want to read. But will I still say that after trying the sample? Let’s find out…

The First Chapter

Just to save some space, I’m going to ignore the prologue and cut straight to the first full chapter. We are introduced to Mika and Eli, two friends on their way back from school.

The two boys walks back home through the glow of a New England autumn afternoon. Heavy backpacks swung from their narrow shoulders…

“Let’s work from my house today, said the shorter of the two. 

The “shorter” boy is quickly identified to be Eli, who is quickly established to be less than fully well:

Mika looked at his friend with concern. The shorter boy was paler than usual…(Eli’s) toe caught on a crack in the sidewalk…Mika put a hand on one of Eli’s backpack straps to steady him.

Now, I like this bit a great deal: in a single paragraph, we are given a good glimpse at the scale of the friendship these two share.

Soon after, we go a bit deeper into the boys’ backstories. I bit too far deeper, in fact, at least in my opinion:

Although not something they advertised among the other seventh-graders at school, Mika and Eli were confirmed building addicts. In the fourth grade…But in sixth grade, things got really serious…The real prize came a few weeks later…The company wanted Mika and Eli to be part of their Beta Team…That was their favourite part of being on the Beta Team – their own designs…

That was five whole paragraphs I summarised right there. Long story short: Mika and Eli were both whizzes with Lego bricks and ended up being signed on by a toy company as a result. Said company produces “Smartbricks” (essentially fancier Lego blogs, with lights, motors etc) and sends the boys products to test each month; once done, the boys are free to use the Smartbricks as they wish. Their latest project is a walking robot, which they hope to finish before dinner that evening.

Right now, the pacing here seems…off, to put it mildly. The scene isn’t exciting in the slightest and, as of yet, doesn’t seem to have a clear point. I have no idea whether this robot will be significant later on, but with so many paragraphs spent on it I’m kinda hoping it is.

Soon after this sequence, the pair reaches Eli’s house. We are introduced to Eli’s mother, Ellen, who works as a researcher for a drug firm. After this, the boys continue upstairs to their robot and get to work. Quite a few paragraphs of them working on the robot follow, during which we learn about Eli’s disappeared father, and during which Ellen turns up with hot chocolate  and then leaves to go shopping.

So…yeah. I gotta admit really wasn’t on board with the story at this point. At all. Mika and Eli seem like interesting characters, sure, but the scene itself seems completely devoid of purpose.  There’s no sense of conflict or tension, no clear motivation or goals for any of the characters and, in general, nothing here to make me want to turn the page.

Of course, things could still pick up. I ain’t giving up just yet…

Eli was working quickly, one foot tucked beneath him…

Then he began to cough.

Finally!

As soon as I read that, my attention shot up. Now that I actually had something to care about – namely, Eli’s welfare – I could begin to get invested in the scene.

Mika tries desperately to help his friend – first by grabbing an inhaler for him, then by injecting him medicine on Ellen’s phoned instructions after he falls unconscious. Despite Mika’s efforts, however, Eli is rushed to hospital. A short scene follows on from that, wherein were learn that Eli has now fallen into a coma.

Long story short, I really didn’t like this chapter: in my view, it simply takes far too long to properly get going. I caught myself speed-reading once or twice during this; not the effect an opening ought to have, to say the least.

The Rest

Despite the…uh…experience that was chapter 1, I decided to give this book a bit more time. And truly, I’m glad I did.

Chapter 2 begins with Eli waking in a cave, free of the ailments that were wracking his body. He assumes he’s dreaming; a strange entity then speaks to him from a dark area of the cave and assures him he is awake. The entity instructs him to light the torch in its hands:

“I don’t have any matches.”

“Just think about the torch being lit.”

“I don’t understand-“

“Just do it.”…

Eli concentrated on the torch, imagining it brightly lit and flaring in front of him. There was a hiss, a pop, and then a lick of fire appeared.

So in other words, this really is going to be a story where one can pretty much do anything while dreaming. And that, in my view, is awesome. The scene in general seems a lot tighter than the opening scene did: it’s interesting, tense, well-written and runs at a good pace.

There’s a bit more after this scene, but this didn’t really change my overall opinion and so I’m not going to discuss it here. Onto the All Important Question, I say.

Did I Buy It?

This book presented me with quite the dilemma. I adore the concept and really, really want to see where it leads.  The two central characters are well-realised and the quality of writing is great ,a single editorial slip notwithstanding. The pacing, however, is not great from what I’ve seen so far. It was okay by the end, but at the very beginning…yeah.

After a bit of consideration, however, I decided that yes, I will be buying this. If the book continues to pick up as it was when the extract ended, then I can see it providing a nice quick read on a concept I’ve wanted to see (namely, lucid dreaming) for a very long time. If it doesn’t pick up…well, we’ll get to that when the time comes. Expect a review in the future, one way or the other.

 

 

 

 

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5 Comments
  1. Hi TPG – thanks for the review. I think you are really onto to something as you record how you experience a book for the first time. It’s a unique reviewing process.

    • No prob; ’twas my pleasure. I’m still trying to nail down the specifics of these reviews, but I think I’m getting close now.

  2. Really enjoyed these two posts. Only trouble is off the back of them I went and bought the book! You keep doing these so often and I’m going to be even more out of pocket. 😉

    • Hope you enjoy it, then :). I’m intending to read the full book myself at some point in the near future – I’ve got a bit of a backlog building – so it’ll be interesting to see how our opinions compare when we’re both done with it.

      Also, I notice you’ve posted an updated Advent abstract over on your own site; will be sure to read that when I get the chance.

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