A scrappy group attempts to overthrow an evil dream world ruler in this debut novel.
Melvin and Lorraine, two “sensible” and levelheaded teens, adjust quickly when they fall asleep in their beds and awaken in a white room guarded by two quarrelsome giants. The giants explain that they are in Limbo, the dimension in which dreams are created. Only Dream Ambassadors can summon individuals from the physical world, and they seem to have been called by Mr. Good, an Ambassador who produces sweet dreams and has recently lost his home, the Palace of Somnium, to the nightmare-generating Vile. Lorraine and Melvin set off to aid Mr. Good but are captured by Vile and his meek, riddle-obsessed minion Terrence. The two teens escape, thanks to the negligence of Vile’s grunting “muscular guards,” and eventually encounter Mr. Good, the Wizard Mugwump (who, due to a verbal tic, regularly says “salmon” in place of the word he means), and other summoned humans and denizens of Limbo who hope to restore Mr. Good to his rightful home. They have limited time to act: Vile, tormented by a mysterious voice in his head, plans a master nightmare performance that will plummet every human into endless bad dreams. Tranter begins on a definitively zany note and never backs down, at times costing characterization and stakes. Vile and his pack seem far too humorously incompetent to present serious danger, and Lorraine and Melvin remain undeveloped despite their central status. But many of the side characters are wonderful to get to know, such as Keith, a Boy Scout whose eager offers to help are never as desired as he hopes, and Vince, an Elvis-obsessed human who’s been trapped in Limbo for epochs. Wacky back-and-forths between characters sometimes go on far too long, and not all of the wall-to-wall gags and slapstick land, but amusing moments can certainly be found (as when Vile, constantly mixing up his dream actors, simply calls them all “Norman”).
While this fantasy adventure tale would benefit from more characterization and tension, it still delivers a fun read.