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The Dreamers – Karen Thompson Walker

Well, this will be polarising. This book is nominally an epidemic / apocalyptic thriller charting the spread of a disease in a small Californian university town. It’s also an in depth lyrical piece about the nature of dreams and reality. 

We begin in a small town in the shadow of a mountain, next to a lake, and one by one local college students start to fall asleep. And they can’t be woken, with their brains are more active than waking or dreaming. 

The short chapters explore the lives of some of the students, two young girls who live with their survivalist father, a doctor visiting to understand the epidemic, two new parents and their tiny baby and many more. 

The prose is fascinating, lyrical and flows beautifully. The short chapters are evocative and give you a real sense of the people in the town, while still touching on the escalating crisis. 

I can imagine readers coming to this expecting thriller style ‘Outbreak’ shenanigans will be disappointed, but if you loved her previous work, The Age of Miracles (2012) you will enjoy this one. There is an explanation and resolution to the story, characters and the sickness itself, but it is mostly not needed or the point. 

Excellent, let’s just hope the next novel from this author arrives sooner than 2026!