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by Paul L Bates

  Print book : Fiction  |  1st ed

Worth reading...   (2009-04-17)

Very Good

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by SGorham

I recently read this book by Paul Bates, the prequel/companion book to Imprint, published in 2005, which I have also read.  However, each novel is a stand-alone work, easily read on its own. It was satisfying to have read Imprint first since some of the characters repeat and take more of the stage in this novel. I would still like to read more about a couple of characters, Anastasia, Carpathia, Splash...intriguing characters who flit in and out of this and the previous novel. Perhaps Bates will give us more of them in his next novel?

This is not the genre I usually read, but this slip stream work of fiction(mostly science fiction and fantasy) was still satisfying and entertaining, even though this chilling world, dark and utterly without hope, might someday exist.

Bates is an excellent writer with an impressive command of the English language and a clear and focused novel laid out for his audience. Dreamer, despite a few unsatisfying characters and some unweildy syntax, is thoughtfully constructed. The dystopian world Bates has drawn is dark, filled with despair and devoid of genuine human connections, a world where all the inhabitants know that each step, each encounter could be their last, those in the government and rebels alike.

One of this novel's main character, Jennie Height, walks and dreams through this world, trying to understand herself and the strange dreams she experiences, She explains this world to her companion, Walter Vellum, for part of her journey through her conscious and dream world; "It's a city of death, Walter," Jennie adds. "You saw how it began. You lived there. It's always been kill, be killed, live in perpetual fear, or pretend that none of it is happening."

Adolph Void (a too-obvious name here...?) runs the world and seeks the secret of immortality and ultimately power, the only thing to hunger for in this world since nothing human and genuine is possible. The secret rebellion works to undermine his goal. I'll leave the plot out of this review since you need to read the novel to appreciate its finer plot details.

My interest is with characters, and In this end-of-days novel, every person is categorized, pidgeon holed into a type with or without talents, which groups them by function. We have representatives from each group in the main characters of this world. Its denizens are all political and yet not many of them are genuinely political. Most of them are just struggling to survive to the next day, and life is to be endured, not enjoyed. Even the sexual liaisons are devoid of joy or the sense that an authentic exchange is taking place. For me, this is the difficult part of the novel to manage since I look for the genuine and authentic connections between people when I read, but the point of this book is that those human connections are not possible in this world. In this way, Bates has accomplished the cold and sterile world he intended.

The characters Bates has created are devoid of hope, and I have difficulty inhabiting this kind of world, even for the length of reading a novel, but it's not a world without redeeming value for the reader. In this world, we must come to grips with the nature of our own relationships, with our intimate companions, the world population at large, and the earth itself. None of this is easy since self-examination while reading a novel is contrary to my own reading habits. I like to identify and walk as one with the main character in a novel; I am used to hating the antagonist and supporting the protagonist, good and evil walking separate paths with an inevitable ending. This is not the case in Bate's novels.

At times, Bates writes a bit densely, not giving the reader access to his prose, but most of those places in the book can be glossed without interruption to the plot or the action. Having said this, his talent is genuine and speaks to the underside of life, to the fatality of some of our understanding to what is happening in this world today, of seeking power and wealth and immortality without consideration for those around them who are merely seeking to live a simple life without the sword of Damocles hanging over them.

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