Book Rating: ★★★★☆ (3.75 / 5 stars)
The war has passed, and humanity has lost the ability to feel. Operating in a state of emotionless dissonance, John navigates his life behind his gas mask, completing his usual routine. Sometimes, he gets a dangerous narcotic called “soap” to help him feel again. One day, when he is out obtaining “soap”, he happens upon a young woman named Kira being attacked by one of the dealers. What ensues unleashes a chain of events that leave John wondering: who is watching his emotions, is he at risk for being “removed” and if there is more going on that meets the eye?
In a harrowing story that poses multiple questions about our reliance on AI (in this case, an artificial intelligence known as Celeste), the humanity of a machine, and the danger of emotions, we venture into a dystopian future that can easily be seen on our horizon. At what point will AI control our world, to the extent that it might just monitor and provide us with dreams? What about control our emotions?
But is this AI also sentient?
Starwing, coupled with illustrations by Melinda Maria, is a descriptive piece of work that will draw you into each dream, while also letting you see John’s world unfold. Every dream that John enters is coupled with symbolism, at times so subtle that even John doesn’t know it, while other times a blatant hint over what is to come. I feel like this is the type of book you could comb over multiple times and still miss some of the details! In these details, we can experience John’s emotions, and the idea of “feeling” is so central to the plot, that if we couldn’t feel with John, the story would be callous.
These details also provide great foreshadowing: I was able to guess the “twist” behind John’s romantic interest, long before John uncovered it. This is a huge kudos to the author – it takes skill to foreshadow with enough hints that the twist is still satisfying upon discovery, even if the reader uncovers it.
Yet, Starwing’s amazing descriptors are also the story’s small flaw. It’s a slow paced book, meandering through John’s life as he slowly uncovers each secret. While each day has it reason, each dream has it’s purpose, I did find myself skimming in some parts to get to either the next revelation or bit of “action.”
Overall though, Dreaming Your Dreams is a fascinating story, with beautiful illustrations and relatable characters. I’m always excited to read something that very well could occur in our world in the not-so-distant future.
So celebrate your emotions…because who knows when you may have to tame them and put on a gas mask.
What’s it about?
This illustrated novel tells the tale of a dystopian future where, following a war that nearly devastated humanity, the survivors partnered with Artificial Intelligence to create a brighter future. The people enjoy a virtual utopia every night by using interactive dream technology, but their computer-generated dreams are the only source of entertainment available. The AI determined that the root cause of all harmful human behaviours was uncontrolled emotions, but balanced, harmonious emotions are an integral aspect of wellness. It concluded that the only way to reliably achieve that was to eliminate emotion while a person was awake, then provide a safe way to experience the complete range of human emotions while engaged in dreaming. The story follows a man who struggles to hide the fact that he can still feel a low level of emotions during the day. He must keep his secret emotions and his mind strictly controlled-through the use of meditation-but he continues to make that harder and harder to accomplish when his life is on the line.