Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Dream Master! Dream Faster!

Over the years, Roger Zelazny has been the most reviewed author on this blog (see previous thoughts on Amber, Lord Of Light and This Immortal), which is odd because while I like his work I don't necessarily love it.

I may find him easy to write about because many of his interests - pop psychology, mythology, religion - coincide with my own. I also like the way his allusiveness - rich descriptions and deep conversations spanning the pulp architecture of his plotting - resists easy explanation.

In a way Zelazny represented the accessible end of the 'New Wave' of fantasy and SF of the late 60's and early 70's. He displays influences beyond the genre and a degree of literary experimentation, but he is a much easier entry point than fellows such as Ballard, Disch or Delany.

That said, his second novel The Dream Master (1966) is more difficult to fathom than many of his works. It follows Charles Render, a psychologist trained in the construction of healing dreams for his clients using a technowomb. Ostensibly the perfect therapist, his hubris undoes him when he attempts to give a blind woman dreams of sight.

It's a confusing book - intentionally so. Fragments of other narratives are placed alongside the main plotline, often without context. So much is hinted at, often in crucial passages that attempt to follow the logic of dreams themselves, that the reader apprehends the book as if through a glass darkly.

This gives it undeniable atmosphere. But a rushed ending in particular ultimately denies The Dream Master its potency. Zelazny himself felt the short story on which it was based did a better job, but having not read that I can't comment. 

I will say that several of the supplementary narratives felt like padding (interesting, but nevertheless padding) and the one-dimensional nature of the women in the book much less easy to overlook than they might have been at the time.

Interesting enough that it begs a re-read, but flawed enough that it stands more as a statement of ambition than of craft.

No comments:

Post a Comment