The Book of Dreams is a small but satisfying collection of short stories that are thematically, albeit loosely, connected by the theme of “dreams.” The book features original stories by Robert Silverberg, Lucius Shepard, Jay Lake, Kage Baker and Jeffrey Ford, and was edited by Nick Gevers for Subterranean Press.
Somewhat surprisingly, my least favorite story in the collection comes courtesy of Grand Master Robert Silverberg. “The Prisoner” is a somewhat repetitive and heavily symbolic story about a man facing an onslaught of nightmares that gradually threaten his sanity. It’s not a bad story, but I found it a bit predictable. (2 stars)
“Dream Burgers at the Mouth of Hell” by Lucius Shepard, on the other hand, is wildly inventive and completely unpredictable. This story about a Hollywood screenwriter’s surreal business lunch is funny, trippy and at times almost uncomfortable to read. I think Philip K. Dick would have been proud of this one. As a bonus, Lucius Shepard‘s prose is simply a pleasure to read. I hadn’t read anything by this author before, but based on this story, I plan to seek out more of his works very soon. (4 stars)
The quality continues to be very high with “Testaments” by Jay Lake. The sequence of six (plus one) miniatures paints a powerful story, filled with prophetic language and gorgeous imagery. This is definitely one of those stories you can read and re-read. The final sentence of the story is a perfect summation of the entire collection: “For now, dreaming is enough. There is no higher truth.” Jay Lake is another author who’s going on my must-read-more list. (4 stars)
Next up is “Rex Nemorensis” by the consistently excellent Kage Baker. A Vietnam veteran tells his story, and as always, Baker manages to capture the voice of her narrator perfectly. If you’re not familiar with the phrase “rex nemorensis,” look it up after reading the story to see how cleverly Kage Baker connects the scars of post-traumatic stress disorder to a millennia-old myth. (4.5 stars)
The final story is the somewhat unpleasantly titled “86 Deathdick Road” by Jeffrey Ford. This one really captures the hallucinatory character that some dreams have, and the way they gather the scattered images we collect during the day into a surreal stream of symbols. I admired how Jeffrey Ford captured the feeling of powerlessness during unpleasant dreams and infused the story with touches of dark sexuality. (3 stars)
At just under 120 pages, The Book of Dreams may be a bit short, but it contains some great stories that justify the price of admittance, especially the contributions by Lucius Shepard, Jay Lake and Kage Baker.