New Jersey bartender and author Zenner combines corporate deceit, futuristic technology, and sleep science into a rousing debut.
Heartbroken from the recent loss of his beloved wife, Emily, Baltimore bartender Ben Walker jumps at any chance to participate in the kinds of sleep studies that have helped keep him financially afloat for years. Bored with his life, he frequently finds himself “drinking to oblivion”—a routine interrupted by a tip from a dream scientist about a lucrative, revolutionary project for which he believes Ben, who in past tests has exhibited extraordinary subconscious “control and vividness,” would be perfect. This new lucid-dream sleep study is based in the Hamptons and has been commissioned by eccentric multimillionaire Dr. Timothy Kalispell. The study utilizes a machine nicknamed “Lucy” (for Lucid Transmitter), which reads and records images created during the sleep cycle. Initially, Ben exhibits promising results while doctors view his subconscious “sleep art” imagery as he flies through his mind’s dreamscapes. The project is soon taken on the road to Paris and Rome to incorporate dreams dreamt after seeing art masterpieces, yet even after some overdue spicy romance with beautiful stranger Sophia, things begin to spiral downward. Ben becomes plagued with migraine headaches as Dr. Kalispell unveils his newest technology, the “Vitruvian Machine,” capable of bringing dreamed images to life. Of course, big-business ethics and profit lie behind the grand design, and once the team enlists Ben as a full-time employee, his sketchy dreams of a place called Drapery Falls put him in grave danger. When the lines between what is dreamed and what is real begin to blur, the medical team behind the project shows its contemptible colors. Zenner crafts a well-paced thriller powered by a lively, gutsy protagonist and durable supporting characters nefarious and romantic. Kalispell is a formidable villain, yet Zenner is cleverly careful not to reveal his true nature until the plot is well underway. Fans of reality-bending sci-fi medical thrillers will find much to savor in this futuristic thrill ride with a bloody denouement.
A creative, sharply drawn thriller anchored by sturdy prose and a memorable hero.