by Genevieve Valentine
Cover Artist: Helbanim
Review by Bill Lawhorn
WSFA Press ISBN/ITEM#: 9781936896066
Date: 10 October 2014
Dream Houses isn't your typical science fiction novel. The action is more in the mind, with a slow build, rather than the rapid fire action set of so many modern novels. The action starts on a kite-class cargo ship in transit to Gliese-D.
Amadis comes to, confused and disoriented. Her sleep pod is a wreck the rest of the crew is dead. The ship is locked into its path. She has a long way to go and few supplies to get there. Her only companion is the ship's AI, Capella. She needs to find a way to survive supply issues and loneliness.
The story unfolds in multiple layers. There is the story of Amadis' attempt to survive on the ship. Amadis also considers her past and relationship with her family and the events that changed her childhood. There are also interludes with Amadis' journey to space. The last piece relates to music and how a tragedy in the past relates to Amadis' current predicament.
The challenge here it to not give too much, because the best way to learn about the story is to let it grow before the reader page by page. Dream Houses reminds me of a Twilight Zone episode, with some classic space race psychology, a little 2001 a Space Odyssey, and some classic American History thrown in on the side.
When the story was first proposed for publication, the teaser lead me to believe the story was going one way. The route it took was not completely what I expected. In the end it was fine, but my expectation colored my reading. The solo nature of Amadis being trapped alone far from any help was very reminiscent of classic space horror. But this isn't the in your face horror of Aliens, it leaves a lot of the action off screen so that the reader's imagination can fill in the blanks.
Valentine writes nice prose. This is not a mile a minute action thriller. The words must carry the reader without overwhelming. She walks the delicate balance well.
REVIEWER NOTE: Full disclosure, I am a member of the Washington Science Fiction Association, the publisher of this book.