This really was a superb read. So superb in fact, it’s a struggle to really put it across in this review. But I’ll give it a bloody good go anyway.
This was only my second venture into Chris Kelso’s work. The first was his fine novella, Unger House Radicals which was, in a word, brutal (-y excellent!). I Dream of Mirrors wasn’t so much a feast of gore-soaked depravity like UHR, there was a deeper meaning here I’m not sure I’ve totally understood. Yet.
The story of a dystopian world where the citizens of the city have been split into two factions, was depressingly descriptive. I could almost smell the squalor and feel the surroundings of derelict buildings and desolate streets.
One charismatic leader, Miles Dunwoody has ‘brainwashed’ the majority of the city’s denizens, and plans to recruit more to his cause. He claims to be a saviour, but his methods certainly suggest otherwise. One such subject is our un-named protagonist and his friend and would-be lover, Kad.
What starts out as a typical, albeit brilliantly told, story of survival against the corporation that rules, suddenly turns into a strong case of the weird. Kad and narrator-man are battling against these zombie-types; now ‘changed’ and followers of this flamboyant messiah.
Dunwoody speaks via giant projections on tall office buildings, seemingly spreading his message to all who would listen. Or is he speaking directly to our protagonist? He has no recollection of his previous life and over time begins to believe what the leader is telling him.
I’m still trying to wrap my head around this book. Does everything that happens actually happen? Are scenes and characters delusions in the protagonist’s head? Is any of this real? There are hints of pre-programmed memories and artificial experiences, and I wondered just how much was actually real. Is our protagonist not only un-named but also unreliable?
The world described here is like every dystopian book or movie you can think of, yet at the same time unnervingly very different. The story is confusing at times, but never to the point where you scratch your head in wonder, or have to re-read passages to find out what’s actually going on. The prose flows effortlessly, leaving no time to over-analyse anything. The story begs your mind to continue on this dark and unsettling journey into a world that isn’t a million miles away from what could happen one day.
This is a tale about identity, where dreams may be more than just the over-active imagination playing tricks in your hours of slumber. I think so anyway.
I feel a re-read of this novella would reap benefits. I’m sure subtle clues are littered throughout, yet I was too engrossed and a little confused to appreciate them as I read.
Categories: book review