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The Houses of Time

The Houses of Time

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by Jamil Nasir

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David Grant has a singular talent--he can affect the course of his dreams.

Quite by chance, he discovers the existence of the Trans-Humanist Institute and their lucid dreaming lessons. He discovers that under the tutelage of Dr. Thotmoses he has more control over his dreams. However, his talent soon runs away with him and he visits dreamplaces while awake.


David Grant has a singular talent--he can affect the course of his dreams.

Quite by chance, he discovers the existence of the Trans-Humanist Institute and their lucid dreaming lessons. He discovers that under the tutelage of Dr. Thotmoses he has more control over his dreams. However, his talent soon runs away with him and he visits dreamplaces while awake. The waking world and the dreaming world collide. Grant ends up sedated in a hellish mental institution . . . but escapes through his lucid dreams, which he is beginning to control--though the control is far from perfect.

Grant discovers, to his horror, that Dr. Thotmoses belongs to the Caucasus Synod Western Orthodox Church, and that they have been grooming him because of his fantastic dreaming talents. Only someone with his talent at manipulating reality and dream can bring their prayer to the Divine Presence in the universe. Many have tried this journey, few have succeeded. Those who have returned successful are rewarded beyond their wildest dreams.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Nasir (Tower of Dreams) combines lucid dreaming, unconscious desires and the search for God in this lugubrious exploration of different layers of reality. Aging, skirt-chasing lawyer David Grant studies lucid dreaming with Dr. Thotmoses at the Trans-Humanist Institute, hoping to dream up "the most perfect woman possible" and incidentally discover the underlying truth of life. When Grant falls in love with Thotmoses's daughter, Kat, he chases her through multiple dream worlds until he learns to control his dreams and propel himself into other realities. Soon he learns that Kat's family wants to use his abilities to plead on their behalf before God. As multiple realities flood his life, Grant believes himself insane and must choose whether to accept the godlike gifts he has been offered or live as a crazy person in a damaged body. Though Grant trudges toward enlightenment, his misogynistic attitudes and lengthy disbelief in his talents soon make for tedious reading. (Apr.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

David Grant's talent for lucid dreaming grows beyond his comprehension as he experiences his dreams even while awake. His discovery of the Trans-Humanist Institute enables him to learn to control his gift until he realizes that his teacher and mentor, Dr. Thotmoses, has his own agenda. David's journey to self-knowledge takes him from dreams to nightmares as he strives to uncover what the Institute plans for him. Nasir (Distance Haze; Tower of Dreams) brings a new approach to an always fascinating subject-dreams and the human unconscious-in a work of speculative fiction and adventure suitable for most libraries.

—Jackie Cassada
Kirkus Reviews
Nasir (Distance Haze, 2000, etc.) explores the realm of lucid dreams. Forty-nine-year-old lawyer David Grant enters the Life Revision Program at the Trans-Humanist Institute hoping to enhance his lucid dreaming abilities. Along the way, he runs into Kat Hatshep, the double of a girl he met in a lucid dream. Astonishingly, Kat similarly recognizes him. They have dinner, and Grant thinks Kat stays overnight-although he also recalls her taking a taxi home. Kat, the daughter of THI director Dr. Piotr Thotmoses, tells Grant that he exists in other universes; he can switch his awareness into another "him," whereupon he remembers both sets of memories. Kat subjects Grant to a headache-inducing, video game-like device that she says will enhance his ability to travel into distant universes. When Grant fears he's losing his ability to distinguish dream from reality, Kat retorts that there's no difference anyway. Is she crazy or is he? He consults a psychiatrist and learns he has epileptic seizures-did Dr. Thotmoses deliberately damage his brain? Grant finds he's able to dream-travel to specific places and times to meet Kat, who now asserts she's of a different human species; she needs Grant's superior traveling abilities to visit God and present a prayer for her people's continued health and prosperity. Meanwhile, Grant finds himself in a psychiatric hospital, strapped to a bed, quadriplegic, drugged to the eyeballs and unable to dream lucidly. Even if he could escape, where would he go?Well worked-out and agreeably challenging, even though the ending's a bust.
From the Publisher
"A fresh and intriguing science fiction voice."—Denver Post

"[Nasir is] a writer who loves words and can turn them into the vital stuff of experience....You'll see a world through new eyes."—Jack Dann

"A dazzling achievement that heralds Nasir as a bright new voice in science fiction."—Booklist on Quasar

"An interesting new writer."—The Washington Post Book World

"The overall effect of the novel is that of a disturbing vivid dream. Recommend this great book to Neal Stephenson and William Gibson fans ready for a cultural cyberpunk twist."—Voice of Youth Advocates on Tower of Dreams

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Read an Excerpt

The Houses of Time

By Nasir, Jamil Tor Books
Copyright © 2008
Nasir, Jamil
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780765306104

Chapter 1
David Grant woke up in the basement den of his grandmother’s house, sitting at a table that hadn’t been there for thirty years. It was night and the lights were off, but he recognized at once the smell of the varnished pine paneling, the floor tiles cool under his bare feet, the dark outlines of red sling chairs. He knew he was dreaming right away, without doing any of the checks from the Trans-Humanist Institute’s Lucid Dreaming lessons. One of his exercises was to dream a scene from a specific time and place in his life, and he had picked this: his grandmother’s house on the ocean, in the spring of his nineteenth year.
His heart beat with excitement, as it still did whenever he realized he was awake in a dream. He slowed and deepened his breathing, relaxed his muscles so as not to wake himself; nevertheless, for a second he felt his body lying in bed, hands touching the sheets, even as he was still sitting at the table in the dark basement. Then something in the dream caught his attention, pulling him back in. His great-aunt Dee, who had inherited the house from Grandmother many years before, was moving around in the dark, stacking bottles of wine in a small cabinet. The wine glowed neon blue.
He wanted to say something to her because she had been dead these many years, but he was worried he would scare her in the dark. No sooner did he have that thought than all the lights in the basement were on, andhe could see through the kitchen doorway and partway down the hall to the stairs and bathroom and pantry, and the basement was cozy and close against the darkness outside the windows just as it used to be when he had stayed here; but, as though erased by the light, Great-Aunt Dee was gone.
Grant’s chair legs scraped the floor as he stood up, startled. Dream “reality laws”—as the THI Lucid Dreaming lessons called them—were far different from those of the waking world; some things happened if you barely thought about them, though others seemed untouchable by your intentions. A shiver of excitement went up his spine, and before he knew it, he was hanging in the air near the white ceiling tiles, which he had never seen up close before. They were rough-textured and dusty.
He knew something about dream flying from recent experience. He let his body go limp, consciously let the excited feeling drain out of his spine. He sank to the floor. The energy in the spine made you fly, and the more excited you got, the more you flew. But he didn’t want to fly right now; he wanted to look around, visit this place, as the THI lesson had bid him do.
He walked into the kitchen on the cool floor tiles. It was just as he remembered: small and bright, paneled like the rest of the basement in beveled, varnished pine, open on one side to the den, on the other to the hall, with a small wall-mounted table you could fold down, the big, old-fashioned automatic dishwasher his grandmother had used as a dish rack. Everything was still and silent. He looked out the window over the double sink, into the back yard. Two birch trees stood there, their silvery-white trunks glowing faintly in the light from the window. He didn’t remember any birches in the yard; the idea flickered through his mind that they were dream trees, like flat paste-ons over the real remembered scene.
The trees began to slowly rotate, showing him that they were three-dimensional.
He was up near the ceiling again with excitement. If he could make trees turn, what else could he do? He cast around wildly for an idea to try. How about women? Here he could invent the most perfect woman possible. . . .
Sure enough, he heard the outside door at the top of the basement stairs open and close, and light steps come down. He floated gleefully into the hall.
A girl was coming hesitantly down the stairs, holding the banister. She was blonde and small, maybe only five feet two. She was beautiful. So beautiful that he sagged back down to the floor with the seriousness of the situation.
“Hi,” she said. “Are you David? Grant?”
The sun had bleached her chin-length hair to shining cornsilk and lightly freckled her fair skin. She had wide-set azure eyes, cheeks fresh as a child’s, and she was magnificently casual in flip-flops, low-rise jeans, and a T-shirt that left a smooth, tanned inch of her stomach showing, her body beautiful and alert, with an unconscious poise that came from some physical skill like dancing or . . .
“Yeah. I’m Dave.”
She seemed relieved. “I’m Jana.” She put out a hand. He shook it. It was small but frank and strong. “This is the address you gave me,” she said, to fill an awkward silence.
“I did? Well . . . , come in,” he said, using his clumsy nineteen-year-old’s manners. He backed up until they were in the living room, then found that he was staring at her again.
She looked even younger than him, though with that air of maturity girls get suddenly in their mid-teens, as if she were really ten years older. That in itself was intimidating, but on this girl it was barely a starter.
“Oh!” he said, a memory suddenly coming to him, as they do in dreams. “You’re the surfer.” He barely kept himself from saying “surfer girl.”
She grinned at him. “The surfer girl,” she said as if reading his mind. “Right.”  He lay in his big bed in the suburbs, the streetlight at the end of his driveway making a pale rectangle on the wall, and it was decades later. He was a forty-nine-year-old lawyer, Aunt Dee, the last of his surviving relatives, had long since died, and a realtor hired by Grant had sold Grandmother’s house years ago.
Too bad he had woken up just when the beautiful girl arrived. That had been one of his best dreams yet. Good; he would put it on his weekly report, and maybe they would advance him to the next level, and he could find out what THI taught besides lucid dreaming. Life Revision was the program he had signed up for, and the promises the Institute made for it were not modest. Vague, but not modest.
In the meantime, it wouldn’t hurt to try for another surfer-girl dream. Grant rolled onto his side, pulled his covers straight, and snuggled into his pillow again.  He woke on a futon in a small bedroom, and it was morning.
He lay still for a minute, studying the ceiling. The smell of grass and dirt warmed by the sun came through an open window partly shaded by the big heart-shaped leaves of a philodendron.
He wondered suddenly if he was dreaming, a question the THI lessons had taught him to ask a hundred times a day, but especially whenever he woke up. He got up on an elbow and took his watch from a small night table, looked at the writing on its face just below the 12. Timber, it said in tiny letters. He looked out the window, then back at the watch. Arctic, the tiny letters said now. He suppressed a thrill of excitement. He was dreaming. Text and numbers were notoriously unstable in dreams: they changed 75 percent of the time on two readings, 95 percent of the time on three, making a simple test. If you didn’t check, you would often just go along illucidly rationalizing the most outrageous oddities, which was the way of “normal” dreaming. It was only when you could consciously say to yourself “I’m dreaming” that you became lucid.
He stood up stiffly and shuffled through his small book-lined living room to the kitchen to make coffee, and suddenly his heart jumped. Though grown up now, he was having dinner tonight with the beautiful surfer girl he had met at his grandmother’s house.
The colors of the apartment began to fade; he could vaguely feel his body lying asleep. His excitement had begun to wake him.
He spun around in the middle of the kitchen like a child making himself dizzy. Spinning was one of the best ways to keep from losing a lucid dream: the whirling sensation and dizziness seemed to pull your attention back to the “dream body,” blocking the sensory input from your sleeping physical body. Though often when you returned to the dream, the scene had changed.   He walked along a sandy gravel road in near pitch-dark, gusts shaking drops from the branches of trees, bushes and small stands of bamboo hissing and swaying in the rainy darkness like sentient beings. Over the wind he could hear the crashing of waves from the beach thirty yards away. At the end of the gravel road yellow light came from the windows of a cottage, where Jana lived with two roommates. It was surrounded by an overgrown garden and a rusty chain-link fence whose gate swung creaking in the wind. He followed a walk of flagstones half-covered with sand. He knocked, and Jana opened the door, shocking him anew with how beautiful she was, her face clear and intelligent, shapely eyes alert. 
Copyright © 2008 by Jamil Nasir. All rights reserved.


Excerpted from The Houses of Time by Nasir, Jamil Copyright © 2008 by Nasir, Jamil. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author

Jamil Nasir has won great recognition and a large readership through the publication of his short stories in Asimov's, Universe, Interzone and Aboriginal SF. He is the author of four novels: Distance Haze, Tower of Dreams, Quasar, and The Higher Space.

Jamil Nasir's third novel, Tower of Dreams, won France's top science fiction award, the Grand Prix de l'Imaginaire, and was runner up for the Philip K. Dick Award for best science fiction paperback published in the United States. His short story “The Nomalers” won a first prize in the Writers of the Future Award.

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