The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters, Volume One
by Gordon Dahlquist
Review by Colleen Cahill
Bantam Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780553385854
Date: 30 December 2008 List Price $12.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
[NOTE: We were so enthused when this book first appeared in 2006, that we're re-running Colleen Cahill's review. Note this review is for both Volume One and Volume Two.]
There are many things that attract me to a book: a gifted author, an exciting plot idea or even an arresting cover. In the case of Gordon Dahlquist's The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters, I was caught from the minute I read the title. It raised so many questions, such as what are dream eaters and are there really glass books? This is Dahlquist's first novel and the experienced play and screenwriter gives us a mystery, a thriller and a gaslight science fiction work that lives up to the promises offered in his book's title.
The very proper Miss Temple has been cruelly jilted by her fiancé and she wants to know the reason why. Abelard Svenson is a military doctor from Macklenburg who has the unhappy job of trying to protect a wastrel prince, one who has fallen in with a strange crowd. Cardinal Chang, so-called because of his red coat and scars around his eyes that give him the look "of a slanted-eyed menacing Chinaman" is a meticulous assassin who discovers the body of Colonel Trapping, the man Chang was hired to kill. These three people find themselves in the middle of a dark conspiracy, drawn in by love, duty and a desire for revenge. Before them is a formidable Cabal that is willing to use any means, from seduction to murder to a mysterious "Process", to get what they want. This dark group recruits from the lowest brothels to the highest levels of Victorian society with a goal that will change not only those in power, but the nature of humanity itself.
At the center of this entire conspiracy is an arcane procedure, one involving a special indigo clay that turns people into happy followers of the syndicate, at least those that it does not kill. The beauty of the "Process", from the Cabal's viewpoint, is the participant does not need to be willing: if they survive, they will be loyal soldiers to the inner circle. An added bonus is the memories of the participant can be captured, useful for blackmail and so much more. Others can experience these recorded memories with every sensation intact: it is as though you live the event. But experiencing others memories come with a price, as it can be highly addictive.
While Miss Temple, Dr. Svenson and Cardinal Chang have limited resources in this fight, their combined intelligence and courage prove very effective weapons and they are assisted by the Cabal's belief that the trio is part of a rival group. Also of help is that the top players of the Cabal are not united and there is even evidence that they are conspiring against each other. The question of why Colonel Trapping was killed raises issues of who is really in control of the Cabal.
This is not a gentle or innocent tale: Dahlquist presents all sides of reliving memories, with an emphasis on those of an adult nature, making this a book for a mature audience. It is also an easy story to fall into, as captivating as the glass books from the title (yes, they do exist). So let the title draw you in and savor all of The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters.