Dream City

25 09 2009

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Written by: Brendan Short
I’m going to be honest about this: I picked up this book based only the cover with no knowledge of what the book was about, so you’ll have to forgive for expecting a two-fisted tale of rollicking adventure in the vein of the mid 30’s pulp fiction.
At this point you maybe asking yourself “What is this pulp fiction you speak of?” And before you ask, it is only tangentially related to the Quentin Tarantino movie of the same name. Pulp fiction was a style of writing that emerged onto the scene in the 1920s, featuring a variety of stories printed on cheap stock. Back in the day, pulp content ranged from the Cosmic Horror of H.P. Lovecraft to noir pieces to the over-the-top action of Doc Savage to the sword-and-sandals fantasy of Conan The Barbarian. The pulp era kind of died down by the late ’50s, when the leading distributor of pulp, the American News Company, went bankrupt.
As of late, however, authors have begun to revive some of the tropes and themes of the genre, focusing mostly on the over the top, cigar chomping, Nazi punching, gang busting, parts in the vein of heroes like The Shadow, Doc Savage, and The Phantom. These pulp revival stories are known as Two-Fisted Tales of ACTION!

Now that you  know some the expectations I had going into this novel, let me tell you what Dream Cityis not: It is not a story of Mad Science run amuck. It is not a story of Crime Busting lantern-jawed heroes. It is not a story of hard boiled, monologuing PI’s. There are no lost worlds, or secret societies, or  half-dressed damsels in distress, or plucky kid sidekicks, or intrepid reporters. There is nary a Nazis to be decked. 

Dream City is not a story where the good guy, no matter what the odds, somehow manages to pull through. If you had to ask me about what kind of story Dream City is, I’d say that in the story, one of the main characters goes to buy a car. The previous owner of the car, with no outward prompting, goes on to say that  he accidently ran over a homeless man with it during his youth, and since has been haunted by the memory.

It’s that kind of story.

This is the kind of story where people mistake physical objects for immaterial ideals, and then promptly spend their lives chasing unattainable dreams. This is the kind of story where all of the characters accomplishments are either Pyrrhic victories or rendered totally moot soon after.  This is the kind of story where the characters are not just doomed to failure and senseless deaths, they are not even afforded the luxury of facing a tangible antagonist and so spend the rest of their lives angsting over what could have been.

In short, this is the kind of story where the only thing that happens in two hundred odd pages is that a few ineffectual people have die… Some of whom were the protagonists.

It seems as though the point of this novel was to show cynically show how uncaring and tragic life can be, it missed the mark because it made the mistake of nullifying itself by making it impossible to care.

There are some who probably enjoy that kind of story. For those who do, I heartily recommend Dream City. For those who don’t, why not pick up something like Doc Sidhe by Aaron Allston?




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