The Dream Master is a science-fiction novel by Roger Zelazny, 1966, originally published as a novella titled He Who Shapes that won a Hugo Award in the same year. In 1981, the writer wrote an outline for a film based on the story. 20th Century Fox purchased the rights from Zelazny and developed a script for the movie, Dreamscape, 1984. Zelazny did not appear on the credits for Dreamscape due to having no involvement in writing the script or treatment for the motion picture.
In a future where overpopulation and technology suffocate society, comfort and psychological issues are at odds. Charles Render delivers a psychotherapeutic innovation that can make your nightmares disappear. Render can manipulate your dreams and drive your demons away. Elliot Shallot delivers Render an almost impossible challenge in asking for his help. Will Charles Render be her knight in shining armour or a lost soul inside a tin suit?
Lucid, nightmares or any other type of dreams are all great. I’m not the only one that thinks so. People devote their lives to studying the meanings behind the images we see in our altered states of consciousness. I’m fascinated by how some dreams have helped create some of the most memorable songs, books and films in history.
In Japan, studies are underway to help create a dream-reading machine. Scientists have discovered how to use an MRI machine to help identify the images we dream about using hormone signatures. Hopefully, this technology is nothing more than an idea at the moment, but would you really want to use it anyway? Dreaming is one of the most curious situations we experience as human beings, and I don’t think I want to turn that into reality yet.
I find it hard to review a book after just one read. I have some issues with The Dream Master, only because it’s a story I feel I do not understand yet! However, the books I do write about are the ones that will stay in my collection forever and will be read numerous times in the years ahead. I enjoy writing these reviews because I can go back and see how my view of the book changes over time. Plus, I have no idea what other people think of this book? After this is finished and people comment, it lets me see the story in a completely different light. I am just trying to apologise if you believe this review is all over the place, which it is. Selfishly, it’s where it belongs.
“As the door closed mindlessly behind him, Render recrossed the dark Astrakhan to his mahogany fortress and flipped his cigarette into the southern hemisphere. He leaned chair, hands behind his head, eyes closed.”
The Dream Master takes place in the future, a world that involves talking canines and self-driving cars. Charles Render specialises in neuroparticipant therapy, where a patient is set into a dream simulation where Render can control the host’s dream state. Render can manipulate the patients’ underlying neuroses and turn nightmares into pleasant dreams. Thus, helping people take control of their life in the real world. Charles meets Eileen Shallot, who asks Render to train her how to become a neuroparticipant therapist herself. Eileen wants to understand what her patients will have to go through, even though she is blind. Charles Render, always one for pushing boundaries, agrees to help his client.
“We are living in a neurotic past. – Again, why? Because our present times are graded to physical health, security and well-being. We have abolished hunger, though the back-wood orphan would still rather receive a package of food concentrates from a human being who cares for him than to obtain a warm meal from an automat unit in the middle of the jungle.”
I will admit, The Dream Master is not the book I was expecting. After watching Dreamscape, I envisioned the story to be darker, gritty and more realistic. What I got was something that felt satirical, intelligent and confusing. The confusion could be down to my intelligence because there are some big words in the story, plus big names in philosophy, classical music, and all manner of highbrow entertainment. The thing is, I enjoyed the confusion. I’m still a bit lost on what moments took place in a dream state or reality, which only adds to the appeal of the book.
“He translated the windows, turned off the light on his desk, and looked outside. Grey again overhead, and many snowflakes of snow – wandering, not been blown about much – moving downwards and then losing themselves in the tumult . . . He also saw, when he opened the window and leaned out, the place off to the left where Irizarry had left his next-to-last mark on the world.”
As I said earlier, there is a talking dog in the story, and it was a bit of a kick in the nuts to accept. However, there is a passage about a man walking onto a freeway into oncoming traffic, and it is beautiful in a strange way. I still do not know who that man was or if he was even real? The dog even drove a car, and my childish imagination went straight to the Wacky Races. Still, Charles Render’s character is so multi-layered and well written that you forget about the jarring moments in the story. Render comes across as a confident well-regarded man of the community, but you soon learn that his character can’t accept the death of his wife and daughter. I think Charles finds control in his work, and somehow that makes him feel like he can control life itself. His son was a little weak in the story, and I felt his arc fell at the waist side somewhat. I suppose his character is just there to show how Render does everything possible to protect him from any harm.
I don’t like taking notes about how and when things happen in a story because a story should be good enough that you can remember all those moments instantly. I could discuss the ending, but I think my understanding of what happened was not what I expected. It was left to the last minute, without any real conclusion. But then again, I could be wrong, so that’s why I will go back and give it a second try. Maybe, because I have watched Dreamscape and so many other films that cover this subject, the Dream Master didn’t have the grand ending that I expected. However, at one hundred and fifty-seven pages, it’s pretty dam tight.
I suppose this review sums up where I am with this book! I didn’t love it, but I did? There are passages I did not enjoy, but I feel like that is my fault somehow. It is one of the most curious books that I have ever read. It was so cryptic and appealed to my very nature. A book within another book; that is hiding another book on a shelf in an office somewhere in Delaware is my best way to describe it. Sometimes it felt like the future, and other times was like the roaring twenties. If you are reading this and have never heard of the book before, I highly recommend it. I wish I could add more about the story, but I want all my knowledge of the story to come from the pages and not google. It felt reminiscent of a heavy night of drinking. Waking up and having flashbacks appear to you for weeks after, some moments will make you cringe, and others will make you want to go back and do it all again.
As for Roger Zelazny, I am not familiar with his other work, but The Chronicles of Amber looks pretty fantastic. I will check his other books out in the future. I did not know what to expect when I started this site. I wanted to find somewhere I could get some enjoyment and fulfilment. I guess I found it because I didn’t know about Dreamscape until I found it on My Journey into Science-Fiction Project. I have now watched the film and read the book, and it has been a great experience. I can’t ask for much more in life. It’s just pure enjoyment, and there is so much more to come in the future.