Agents Of Dreamland – Caitlín R. Kiernan
A government special agent known only as the Signalman gets off a train on a stunningly hot morning in Winslow, Arizona. Later that day he meets a woman in a diner to exchange information about an event that happened a week earlier for which neither has an explanation, but which haunts the Signalman.
In a ranch house near the shore of the Salton Sea a cult leader gathers up the weak and susceptible—the Children of the Next Level—and offers them something to believe in and a chance for transcendence. The future is coming and they will help to usher it in.
A day after the events at the ranch house which disturbed the Signalman so deeply that he and his government sought out help from ‘other’ sources, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory abruptly loses contact with NASA's interplanetary probe New Horizons. Something out beyond the orbit of Pluto has made contact.
Review: This is going to be a black sheep review because I accidentally didn’t like this book. I say “accidentally” because I was supposed to like it. I mean, look at that cover. That’s a very “me” cover. The book also has great reviews on Goodreads. All the evidence points to me liking it, but I didn’t.
Honestly, I’m not completely sure what this book is about. It’s very short—only 125 pages. There’s a doomsday cult that’s trying to help an alien fungus take over the world. Then there’s a government agent and a psychic lady who are trying to stop the fungus. The psychic lady thinks the fungus will win? Is that it? I don’t know, guys. I’m a bit confused here.
“Too often, it occurs to him that he’s lived just long enough to have completely outlived the world that made sense to him, the world where he fit.” – Agents of Dreamland
I think my problem with this book is that there are a lot of words being used, but nothing is really happening. Characters meet, have cryptic discussions, and leave. There’s a whole chapter of a girl standing on a roof. It’s all very bizarre. I never felt like I had a firm grasp on what was happening or why it was happening. Mostly it feels like nothing is happening. It’s a wordy story with a plot that wanders all over the place.
I know there are allusions to other sci-fi stories in this novella. I haven’t read those other stories, so maybe I would have more appreciation for this book if I had read them?
I did really love the premise and the imagery. All the “nothing” that happens is quite vivid. It’s creepy to think about an alien fungus that preys on humans. That’s enough to give me nightmares. I always appreciate it when a book can creep me out.
Maybe this novella would have been better if it was longer? There would have been more space to flesh out the characters. Except, I don’t think I would have finished it if it was longer.
I guess this is going to be a short review because I don’t know what to say about this book. Everything is confusing, a spoiler, or a confusing spoiler. I’m baffled.
TL;DR: This book is smarter than me. I didn’t get it.