One of the nine promotional comments on the cover of the new Canadian paperback original describes it as a “novel of high-tech horror.” The claim is well-founded. Certainly, Dreamland is novel in the sense of being different—a rare Canadian venture into the horror form by Toronto writer Garfield Reeves-Stevens, author of the 1981 horror novel Blood-shift. And having a demon-possessed computer as one of its far-too-many principal components, the book delivers enough bits and bytes to satisfy the appetites of all but the most discriminating juvenile hackers. Still, at least some adult readers would agree that Dreamland is horrible in ways that the author doubtless did not intend.
Reeves-Stevens presents Dreamland as the tale of an evil supernatural being-known as the “Presence”—which has lived in the Toronto area for centuries. Successive generations of an odd Dutch family have kept it alive, periodically releasing it to feed. Its food: human souls. Its sauce: human
fear. Its next meal: the 60,000 people expected to go to Dreamland, a $1.1billion amusement park, on its first day of business. The park is fully automated, operated by a new-generation computer—also well depicted by the author, who is described by the publisher as “a longtime computer buff.” The computer is called “DreamNet” and it coordinates everything from
A supernatural beast on one side. A murderous director of security on the other. And in between, a conspiracy.’
thrill rides and souvenir sales to climate control and transit system. The Presence invades DreamNet’s circuitry and begins to plot a series of electronically orchestrated catastrophes to provide a hideous opening-day banquet for itself. DreamNet resents the evil being’s intrusion and tries to resist, but the Presence has superior strength and prevails after a strange battle
which rages through the computer’s circuitry.
The book is overwrought and underedited, choking on superfluous subplots and silly characters. They include an octogenarian cartoonist/plagiarist, a rock star obsessed by a fictional bear named Billy, a gay psychiatrist and a magazine reporter who has mastered the martial arts. Dreamland’s failure is a pity because it contains the elements of what might have been a solid and satisfying conventional thriller. The book features a clever plan to siphon $120 million from a dozen or more banks, and a tight time frame.
But given the market that the book tries to exploit, Dreamland is so far from being frightening that it is laughable. While honest members of the park’s management try to avert a disaster and the bank-swindle plans proceed, the Presence emerges for periodic snacks, treating itself tö several terror-stricken park employees. Even the author seems uncomfortable with all the activities. In one of his characteristic and unnecessary recapitulations, he writes: “A supernatural beast on one side. A murderous director of security on the other. And somewhere in between, an unknown conspiracy.” If only Dreamland were that simple.
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