Thursday, October 18, 2018

27. Wine of the Dreamers by John D. MacDonald

Another nice little find from the Nanaimo used bookstore, this is a reprint of one of MacDonald's rare forays into sci-fi.  He writes in an afterword that he was pleasantly surprised to find after not having read it for 14 years that it wasn't as bad as he feared and despite some stilted dialogue, he found the story moving forward at a nice pace. I have to agree with his assessment.  I was quite pleasantly surprised to discover this is a pretty cool concept with a nice, advancing story.  I was worried it would be Travis McGee in space, but I think if you didn't know he wrote it, you would have had a hard time identifying the author.

 The story has two threads.  The first is a scientist and a psychologist working together on a major space flight project who also have potential feelings for each other, kept in check by professionalism and the shared belief in making the project the top priority.  The problem is that one of their top people suddenly went crazy, took an iron bar and smashed up the control room, setting them back months and giving fuel to the skeptical military bureaucracy and politicians that fund the project.  There are hints in the background of people just doing senseless things in society in the news and so on, which give it somewhat of a sci-fi feel but also may be just a reflection of reality.

The second thread takes place in a society of humans who spend their entire lives inside a building that they think is the whole of existence.  Once they turn adult, they spend most of their time in dreaming chambers where they can inhabit the minds and bodies of people in three different worlds.  It is not clear why they do this, but they must.  It is the dogma of their society, as is the belief that there is only the structure they live in.  The dreams are fun and they seem to take the most pleasure in taking over dream people and wreaking havoc in their worlds.  One of these people begins to question as he makes his way up to unused upper chambers and discovers a window (there is a suggestion that the population of these people is shrinking).  His discovery leads to other knowledge and ultimately of a very different understanding of the dreaming, that maybe they are actual worlds and not just dreams.

And so both sides struggle against the fear and limited imagination of their superiors while moving forward in a way that will bring them together.  It's a very interesting commentary on human conservatism and a novel way to try and explain our extreme behaviours.  A good read and I will look for his other sci-fi novel, Ballroom of the Skies.

1 comment:

Jason L said...

Fabulous review