Current reviews
  Reviews by title
  Reviews by author

  Contact Onyx

  Discussion forum


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 state.

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 dream connection.

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 mutual hypnosis.

Real or not, the characters must come to terms with Dreamside in order to bring resolution to their lives.

Web site and all contents © Copyright Bev Vincent 2007. All rights reserved.