A sci-fi novel examines a web developer’s bizarre past and dangerous future.
When readers first meet Jasper Keepnews, he is awakening from a bad dream. Although Jasper later considers the dream “ominous,” his waking life is fairly normal. He is a Seattle-based web developer who enjoys drinking instant coffee and driving his Kawasaki Eliminator motorcycle. Jasper also has diabetes that requires a regular dose of insulin, a routine that his dutiful, bookish wife, Paige, helps him with. One day at work, Jasper’s interest is piqued by something called a Dreamachine. The device, which William S. Burroughs, among others, championed, is essentially a spinning cylinder that flickers. The flickering is meant to sync with users’ alpha waves and give them access to their dreams while they are awake. Jasper decides to build a Dreamachine, but once he tests it, things get strange. Not only is Jasper catapulted back into his terrible dream, but he also sees a woman being murdered in it. When Jasper tells Paige about the experience, she attempts to kill him. And so launches a tale that quickly becomes rife with battles and secret revelations. Readers learn much about Jasper’s past as he embarks on a quest that proves much more action-packed than the creation of a website. Weapons, ranging from guns to shuriken, are incorporated and blood certainly spills. The problem with Dickerson’s (Detour, 2015, etc.) fast-paced plot involves the characterization of Jasper and a woman he later encounters. Rooting for a man with diabetes and an affection for instant coffee is one thing, but Jasper’s true identity makes him just another action star. Not much is done in the text to make him likable or particularly memorable. What gives the book its power is its incorporation of many astute details. Plenty of sci-fi action scenes reference Koga-ryu but how many delve into the relationship of Beat writers and Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring? Certain passages wind up making some heady points even if much of the fighting remains mundane. As the death toll mounts, there is still much for readers to learn.
While portions fall victim to bland violence, this thriller explores a variety of intriguing topics.