Onyx reviews: Dreamside
by Graham Joyce
Ten years after its release in England, Graham Joyce's first novel is
finally available in America. Joyce wrote Dreamside in Greece after
having given up his job in youth work to write full time.
Four college students become part of group participating in a psychology
experiment orchestrated by Professor L.P. Burns. The study involves 'lucid
dreaming,' the art of taking control of the content and the direction of one's
dreams. Lee Peterson has no interest in dreams—he volunteers because he thinks
that attractive co-ed Ella Innes will be signing up.
At first, both Lee and Ella fabricate reports of successful lucid dreaming,
describing an increasing awareness of and control over their dreams, reports
tinged with erotic energy. Soon, though, they discover to their astonishment
that they actually are becoming lucid dreamers. The enigmatic Professor Burns
seems to be aware of both their fabrications and their successes. Along with two
other students, Brad Cousins and Honora Brennan, Lee and Ella become the core of
Burns' research group as they all acquire the ability to control their dreams.
They learn how to interact and pass information to each other in the dream
The experiments turn sour, however, as side effects of their excursions into
Dreamside seep over into their waking lives. After one particularly turbulent
encounter, the group splits up.
As the novel begins, Lee and Ella reconnect for the first time in the dozen
years since the end of their relationship and the dream experiments. Lee is
suffering from "repeaters," a side effect of lucid dreaming. He is
having nested dreams in which he repeatedly seems to awaken, only to wake up
again to discover that the previous awakening was part of another dream. During
the height of the college experiments, the foursome had devised code phrases and
tricks to ascertain when they were really awake. When the experiment was halted,
the side effects abated, but for some unknown reason they have started up again.
When Ella phones Lee, breaking him out of a repeater episode, they convince each
other that one of the four has returned to Dreamside, the place where they once
all convened in dream land.
Ella and Lee try to reunite the original foursome to prevent further
disturbances. They want to figure out which of the group has found it necessary
to start the experiments up again and stop him or her. Lee is sent to locate
Brad Cousins and Ella sets off to Ireland to track down Honora. When the four
are together again, the secrets of what really went on in Dreamside are
unraveled in a gripping and surrealist climax. Ella and Lee have to wrestle with
the recalcitrant Brad and the paralyzingly timid Honora, as well as the residual
emotions of their past relationship, an intimacy that was magnified by their
In Dreamside, readers will find the developing germ of the creative
style that Joyce will exhibit in later novels, such as the award-winning Requiem and
Dark Sister. In Joyce fantasies, the number
of people exposed to the surreal elements is limited to such an extent that it
is never guaranteed that these characters are not suffering from hallucinations
or psychological crises. Even Professor Burns is not a direct party to what went
on in their dream world—he is not capable of lucid dreaming. Joyce allows for
the possibility that the experiences on Dreamside were merely group hysteria or
Real or not, the characters must come to terms with Dreamside in order to bring
resolution to their lives.
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