“This book is stunning.”—Emily St. John Mandel, author of Station Eleven
Named one of the most anticipated books of 2019 by Vogue, Huffpost, Real Simple, PopSugar, Literary Hub, BuzzFeed, Bustle and Vulture.
One night in an isolated college town in the hills of Southern California, a first-year student stumbles into her dorm room, falls asleep—and doesn’t wake up. She sleeps through the morning, into the evening. Her roommate, Mei, cannot rouse her. Neither can the paramedics, nor the perplexed doctors at the hospital. When a second girl falls asleep, and then a third, Mei finds herself thrust together with an eccentric classmate as panic takes hold of the college and spreads to the town. A young couple tries to protect their newborn baby as the once-quiet streets descend into chaos. Two sisters turn to each other for comfort as their survivalist father prepares for disaster.
Those affected by the illness, doctors discover, are displaying unusual levels of brain activity, higher than has ever been recorded before. They are dreaming heightened dreams—but of what?
Written in luminous prose, The Dreamers is a breathtaking and beautiful novel, startling and provocative, about the possibilities contained within a human life—if only we are awakened to them.
Advance praise for The Dreamers
“[An] imaginative, disturbing, and ultimately spellbinding narrative, which asks provocative questions about our concepts of time and connection, and the bounds of possibility for life on earth.”—Vogue
“You’ll be mesmerized by this well-constructed, vividly drawn exploration of the concept of dreams versus reality.”—Marie Claire
“With mellifluous prose, Walker traces victims’ experiences (awake and asleep), along with how their family members, friends, and doctors respond to the crisis.”—Real Simple
“The Dreamers is a beautifully written novel that is powerful, thoughtful, and entirely original.”—PopSugar
“Richly imaginative and quietly devastating . . . Walker jolts the narrative with surprising twists, ensuring it keeps its energy until the end. This is a skillful, complex, and thoroughly satisfying novel about a community in peril.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)|
About the Author
Reading Group Guide
1. A contagious disease, a quarantined town—thecharacters in The Dreamers are facing an extremesituation. Our culture is dominated by two opposingnarratives about how people respond to disasters:Some believe they bring out the worst in people,others that they bring out the best. How do thesepossibilities play out in The Dreamers?
2. What do you think of Matthew’s character? Arehis actions heroic or heartless? Selfless or selfaggrandizing?Or some combination? Is it ethicalto privilege the lives of one’s loved ones over thelives of strangers?
3. How does The Dreamers differ from other booksabout disaster and dystopia? What does it have incommon with those stories?
4. Some of the sick dream of extraordinarily vividalternate lives. Consider Rebecca, who dreamsof an entire lifetime, including a son. Do you thinkher dreamed-of life is somehow real? Or just adelusion? What about Nathaniel’s extended dreamof Henry?
5. Why do you think Karen Thompson Walker choseto feature a large cast of characters instead offocusing on just one person’s experience? How didthis choice affect your reading of the book? Did onecharacter resonate with you more than the others?
6. One of the main characters is a collegefreshman named Mei. How would you describeher personality? How does she change over thecourse of the novel?
7. The Dreamers includes many parent/childrelationships. What do you think of the book’sportrayal of these bonds? How does the crisisaffect these relationships?
8. The Dreamers involves a fictitious disease in afictitious town, but what parallels do you seein today’s real world? How do you think thegovernment would respond to a situation likethis if it happened today?
9. How do you feel about the ending of the book?How do you imagine the lives of the survivingcharacters will look five years into the future?How do you think their experiences during theoutbreak will affect the rest of their lives?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In a small college town a sickness spreads...... first through one of the dorms and then it quickly affects the entire town. Those who are stricken fall into a coma-like sleep that they can not be awoken from. There is widespread panic as people make a run on groceries and supplies. No one knows how the contagion is spread, so there is no way to know what to do to contain it. This book was really good, albeit scary in the thought that something like this could happen. Sometimes the pace seemed a little slow, and some of the characters I felt more invested in their story than others. I would recommend this for fans of pretty much any genre.
Karen Thompson Walker is an extraordinary gifted and accomplished writer. I am just as anxious to read Walker’s first novel, The Age of Miracles for pleasure. Thus, there you have a hint to my review of The Dreamers. The publisher has provided a superb description of The Dreamers, so there is no need for me to add to the description. However, I want to note that we have never read anything like The Dreamers before. Walker takes us into a fictitious story, referred to as both literary and dystopian fiction, and yet dystopia implies squalor, the oppressed and frightened society. However, while there is fear in "the isolated college town" that Walker has created, we also encounter love, hope, joy, and sorrow. It is as if Walker morphed a Nicolas Sparks novel with a Shakespeare play and in doing so she wrote a novel that is as affecting to the reader as it to the residents of this "isolated college town." From the first page to the last page of The Dreamers I became disgruntled when I had to stop reading and set the book aside to sleep or take part in the responsibilities of everyday life. When I came to the end of the book, there was a deep longing for more. I look forward to reading more of Karen Thompson Walker's novels in the near future. Walker is an exceptional author and I give The Dreamers my strongest recommendation. I wish to thank Karen Thompson Walker, Random House and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review The Dreamers. D.B. Moone
“To sleep, perchance to dream” and dream and dream and dream..... Sometimes a book can force you into places you only take a moment to think about. At other times, a book can bring you to places where your brain engages thinking in many diverse directions long after the last word was read. The book, The Dreamers, was such a book that made you not only think but wonder about the very things that govern our being....the brain, the fear of illnesses, and the power of sleep and dreams. There is a virus that is plaguing a town. It is a sickness that causes one to fall into a deep sleep, not waking but suspended in a deep dream state, one from which you cannot wake. People succumb to the sickness, people die, and as the town and others rush to help, the town is quarantined and the people left wakeful deal and do what they can with those in deep sleep. Characters are presented and each one deals with the prospect of family and possibly themselves becoming one of the sleepers, the unwakeful, those who can’t deal with the needs of life and need the wakeful to tend them. Scary and frightening and yet a journey into the unknown world of our brain and what happens when we sleep, including the fear of never awakening, and the places we all venture to when life is precarious and death seems eventual. There were so many positives about this book. The writing was exquisite propelling the reader forward with mystifying detail designed to entice the reader to form their own opinions and draw their own path through the story. There were no easy answers, really no answers at all, and yet in just that aspect alone, the book shines. How one thinks of sleep, of death, of a journey between time and dimensions, this book will touch upon all that. Your thoughts about the concept of sleep, the fear of never returning to a life once lived, and the untouched potential of our brain are there for you to ponder. Reading this book with my book partner, Jan, made for an amazing experience. We both came away with many questions, few answers, but a reading experience that was enriching and ever so fulfilling. Thank you to Karen Thompson Walker, Random House Publishing, and NetGalley for a copy of this thought provoking novel.
The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker is a very highly recommended unique, light science-fiction novel about a mysterious epidemic and a town placed under quarantine. The mysterious sleeping illness began on a college campus in Santa Lora, an isolated college town in the hills of Southern California. A freshman girl returns early to her dorm room and stumbles right into bed. When she is still asleep the next morning, her roommate, Mei, thinks nothing of it and leaves for the day. When she is still asleep that evening, the paramedics are called and she is hospitalized. Then another victim falls into a deep sleep and can't be woken up. At first the remaining students from that floor at the residents' hall are quarantined. Then as the disease begins to spread more rapidly, the whole town is placed under an enforced quarantine. The number of sleepers requiring care reaches 500 by 18th day. Most victims simply stay asleep, although some die. The dreamers must be cared for, which requires many medical professionals and volunteers. The victims seem to be actively dreaming, with increased brain activity, but why? From a few Dreamers who have woken up, we know they have vivid dreams that seem real. Some have lived whole lives, some feel no time has passed, others re-live memories, and some believe they have had premonitions of the future. The narrative changes perspective from one character to the next as the story unfolds. The characters are handled with compassion and a nuance that ties them all together while they experience the fear of an unfathomable epidemic and have no way to escape. Some of the characters include: Mei, a college student who was an outsider; a survivalist father and his 12 and 11 year-old daughters; a couple with a newborn baby; a biology professor; a college student dreamer who is pregnant; and a neuropsychiatrist trapped in town. Their emotions and fears are handled realistically with empathy and mercy. The Dreamers is simply exquisite. This is a skillfully written, breathtakingly beautiful novel that is also a page-turner, full of tension and uncertainty. I was glued to the pages and compulsively reading just one more chapter. The pacing is perfect and the transition between the diverse points-of-views keeps the suspense and tension rising as the narrative unfolds. Walker displays compassion to her characters as she follows their thoughts and actions while the unfathomable epidemic rages around them. I especially loved the details of the life beginning and developing in sleeping, but pregnant, Rebecca, and the resolution of this narrative thread. I read and loved Karen Thompson Walker's The Age of Miracles and I think I love The Dreamers even more. This is a novel that could provide book clubs with an abundance of discussion topics. Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House.
This read somewhat like an episode of the Twilight Zone, which isn't a dig, because I really love The Twilight Zone, it just put me in mind of a really great sci-fi tv script. A small college town finds itself at a center of an epidemic when some students at the college begin to fall asleep and not wake up, and then the town's residents begin to succumb to the same mysterious malady. I was satisfied with the ending, which isn't always the case when I read and watch sci-fi centric plots. To me that was a big plus!
4.5 Stars “Is all that we see or seem But a dream within a dream.” —A Dream Within A Dream, Edgar Allan Poe It begins at the college. A girl named Kara. A party. She leaves, not feeling well, thinking she is coming down with something, she is so very, very tired. She makes it back to her dorm room, and falls asleep in her clothes, her boots still on, so that when her roommate wakes up the next morning she finds her sound asleep. Not wanting to disturb her, Mei dresses quietly and leaves the room as soundlessly as possible. When Mei returns nine hours later, Kara is still asleep in bed, and Mei calls her name, again and again, but Kara does not respond. Not to Mei. Not to the paramedics who come. She’s oblivious to the sounds around her, the sounds of her six-week-new friends calling out to her as she is wheeled away on a stretcher. The sirens. The bumps along the road. The doctors trying to wake her. She sleeps through it all. This sickness moves through the dorm, and then spreads beyond the campus - slowly at first, insidiously. From an elderly man to the young, people begin to fall victim to this unnatural sleep, the hospital begins to fill up with people, alive but sleeping, dreaming unusually vivid dreams, the kind that would feel all too real – if only they would awaken. I wanted to read this as I had read Karen Thompson Walker’s The Age of Miracles, her debut novel which was set in a dystopian near future. This is more science fiction mixed with fairy tale / fantasy fiction, perhaps, than dystopian, as these people succumb to sleep in a way that reminded me of watching Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow and the Lion (and Toto, too) on their way to Oz and suddenly, one by one, all but the Tin Man succumb to the overwhelming need to sleep. Walker dips into the theories of Freud, Jung and others now and then in the ponderings and theories of the unfamiliar, unnatural dream state these people have entered into, which is shown by their unusual brain activity. At the same time she brings us into this world, the tenuous nature of this delicate, almost ethereal place these people find themselves in, the sleeping and those who are surrounded by the confines created by those sleeping. How this virus is spread, the response of those who are supposed to help and protect, the question of an allegiance to those we know and love vs. strangers, the fragility of life, these are among the provocative ideas and questions that are posed in this novel. Beautifully creative and subtly unsettling story of a community faced with a devastating threat, shared through gorgeous prose, and a story that keeps you turning pages through some unexpected twists, all the while loving every minute. Many thanks for the ARC provided by Random House Publishing Group – Random House