By the end of the 21st century, the world had become a harsh place. After decades of natural and man-made catastrophes, nations fell, populations shifted, and seventy percent of the continents became uninhabitable without protective suits. Technological advancement strode forward faster than ever and it was the only thing that kept human society steady through it all. No one could have predicted the discovery of the Dream Walkers. They were people born with the ability to leave their bodies at will, unseen by the waking world. Having the potential to become ultimate spies meant the remaining government regimes wanted to study and control them. The North American government, under the leadership of General Rennet, demanded that all Dream Walkers join the military program. For any that refused to comply, they were hunted down and either brainwashed or killed.
The very first Dream Walker discovered was a five year old girl named Julia. And when the soldiers came for her at the age of twenty, she was already hidden away. A decade later found Julia living a new life under the government’s radar. As a secure tech courier in the capital city of Chicago, she does her job and the rest of her time avoids other people as much as she is able. The moment she agrees to help another fugitive Walker is when everything changes. Now the government wants them both and they’ll stop at nothing to get what they want.
“Waking The Dreamer” had everything that I was expecting to find which I thoroughly appreciated. From the start, Aten set up what was to become of Julia, the protagonist, (who was “patient zero,” or in this case, Dreamer Zero, the first-ever person to be discovered to have the ability to dream walk), for the next decade and beyond. But instead of approaching it like a “Prologue,” with a distinct cut-off from the main body of the book, Aten blended it in as part of Julia’s journey via Julia’s own voice recapping her past to the reader from the start. I was immediately intrigued by what happened to her which was through her dream and within that dream, videos of her past as a kid…it was like a whirpool, swirling inward to get to the info, if you know what I mean. Refreshing story-weaving style, I must say. Precisely matching the subject matter of the story. Speaking of Julia’s own voice, yes, the story was told in a first-person narrative and every single scene and scenario involving other characters was perceived solely from Julia’s own point of view and perspective. Furthermore, I kept wondering why Aten didn’t use a prologue because it certainly warranted it judging by the contents of what Aten described in the first pages. I will get back to this point later on.
Aten’s description of the changing world was utterly chilling because it could very well be true – all the signs are there now if you’re paying attention to what’s happening today. The action of a SOLE superpower can most definitely change the tides. That’s why it’s NEVER good when there’s only one unchallenged country that dictates everything that makes the world go round – economy, environment, social, culture, politics, policies, justice, security. And we’re seeing that happening now. Causality. Cause and effect. Aten presented that in a realistic way that made her world featured in this story eerily close to our real world today and frightfully similar to our ugly past! I do believe, unfortunately, that history repeats itself. Anyway, what made Aten’s world stood out just a little was all the technological advances, from body suits to computers to other “cool” tech toys, like the wrist comps, the helmets, the cochlear implants (hmm…wonder if they’re equipped to listen in to the data streams like Root’s, eh? Nevermind!), the lot! Oh, I want those!! *Now the only thing left would be some COOL gogs, innit?* Aten’s description of the techno-world was visual, filled with techno jargons which I absolutely appreciated (me nerd inside did a happy dance as I consumed all the data defined!)! Aten’s coding and programming expertise sure gave the environment and surroundings she depicted an authentic feel to it. Brilliant!
I was very appreciative of Aten’s detailed description of Julia’s “ability.” She delved into the intricacies of “dream walking” or in other words, astral projection, out-of-body experience (OBE). A topic I’m well aware of personally. What I was especially intrigued by was the level of detail, the technicalities of the walking experience in the astral realm, including how the mind of a Walker worked, away from the physical body, the separation of the Self. As I was reading it, I felt like I was also in the astral realm with Julia, observing intently her actions, her thoughts, and how she executed her abilities and skills! I was delighted to read Aten’s scientific approach at describing the phenomenon. I truly believe that the “real” world and the “astral” (dream) world are just mere parallel universes (as I thought Aten had implied ever so fleetingly whether deliberate or just me own warped interpretation, that is!), vibrating at different frequencies, hence invisible to either side. Only people who have the ability to tune in to that higher frequency (astral/dream) can actually travel into that realm, if only just the conscious mind led by the subconscious.
Another fascinating insight about dream walking that Aten revealed was how it could be done at will if the mind were trained. Julia obviously with years of being a Walker could rest her physical body anywhere and walk out of her physical body into the astral plain. I loved the scene where Julia inevitably bumped into Niko, another dream Walker fugitive. But how Aten introduced their first encounter was truly exciting. It actually caught me by surprise amidst all the chaos. It was all-action and suspense. From then on, Julia’s life was never gonna be the same again.
There was this ongoing disquietude that I felt as I went through Julia and Niko’s initial, tentative acquaintance which turned into a friendship and eventually more. Perhaps it was because everything was seen from Julia’s POV only. And also, me reckons, me own preconceived idea, as a result of having watched or read too many stories about subversive, cat-and-mouse thrillers, I was constantly expecting to catch something in me peripheral vision (so to speak!) as Julia and Niko’s relationship deepened. To me, Niko was this mysterious character and because her POV was never revealed, and she was supposedly a fugitive Walker trying to flee from the government who was looking for her, I just wasn’t sure because I knew absolutely nothing from her except for what Julia perceived and felt. FYI, the government had been rounding up all Walkers to experiment, brainwash and militarise ever since Julia years ago. As we all know, whenever there’s a new discovery, be it scientific or otherwise, something that could benefit the governments, they always seem to find a way to weaponise it, don’t they? I mean, remember Oppenheimer? And many other scientists whose discoveries were later weaponised in the name of security and power? But I digress…. Anyway, I was suspicious of Niko for reasons I can’t divulge here. Intentionally or not, I thought it was brilliant because the fact that there were so many unknown factors surrounding Niko’s story since Julia’s POV was limited to only her own perception and interpretation – tunnel vision, so to speak – only served to elevate the suspense throughout Julia’s journey. I was literally on me toes in virtually every scene involving Niko and Julia! Talk about the intensity I found meself drowning in the sea of uncertainty what with not knowing, not being 100% sure! CRIKEY!!! Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, much?
I enjoyed the scenes where Julia began teaching Niko how to hone in on her “dream walking” abilities, i.e. interaction between 2 Walkers, between a Walker and an awake person, going out of their physical bodies at will, controlling their Walker actions. Aten’s visual descriptions of each scenario during their “training” immediately reminded me of Morpheus and Neo’s training in the dojo in “The Matrix!” It was exciting to read the words! Also, some of the descriptions of Julia and Niko’s actions whilst dream walking, I found meself nodding me head feverishly because… (oh, let’s just say, I knew the feeling!) Aten’s depiction was fun and exhilarating to read!
One thing I have to mention is Julia was a very closed, private, and highly defensive character who’d spent years isolating herself from everyone including herself. As a result of what happened to her that led her to “disappear,” she didn’t trust anyone. At all. So, it was fascinating to experience Julia’s gradual change in her views about trust, love, and letting go of her fears, as her feelings for Niko turned deeper, emotionally and physically. She finally discovered what it meant to be awake from within her soul (hence, the symbolic title!). It was heartfelt but I wish I could experience Julia’s epiphany from Niko’s perspective, though, because that’d make Julia and Niko’s discovery about themselves toward each other felt even more acutely. But then again, it was meant to be experienced only from Julia’s point of view.
Obviously, things didn’t go as smoothly and safe as presumed. And when shite hit the fan, that was when Julia truly showed her power, tenacity and brute-force determination! I applaud Aten’s set up of the final Julia-against-the-world “battle” of wits and deadly skills, which was refreshingly different and original, imo! The physical world converging with the dream world. Imagine the visuals had this been a movie! Aten’s vivid description of the increasing chaos, the race-against-time efforts was written with pulsing intensity. I felt Julia’s physical and emotional desperation acutely in every scene within the sequence until the very end. I found meself heaving a sigh of relief when it was over!
Speaking of, me favourite moment was most definitely the ending. I mean, to say it was a surprising twist would be an understatement! It was so unexpected I was literally….literally laughing out loud in utter disbelief! Yup, that was me reaction, to me utter surprise because I don’t believe I’ve ever had that reaction to a twist. Certainly not an LOL one! I don’t know. Maybe the wires in me brain crossed as a result of that shock? A laughter shock, maybe? Then I found meself clapping me hands! Bloody hell! And there I was having all the theories in me head, crossing them off as each didn’t come to fruition. Aten’s sly twist wasn’t even in me brainwave…at all!!! Bloody marvellous! I had the wool pulled over me eyes good and proper! Gobsmacked.
Suddenly, EVERYTHING made sense! All me wondering and puzzlement (me earlier stipulations about the beginning, the specific narrative style), me suspicions (all those unknowns)….they ALL vanished in a blink of an eye as every one of them fell into place with a crystal clear view in me mind. I finally understood. Well done, Ms. Aten!!!
And last but not least, the implication at the end… absolutely brilliant! All I can say is… it’s all circular, innit? I, for one, believe it. Everything Aten described and portrayed affirmed me personal beliefs about the power of the mind. Mind over matter. That’s the crux of it, innit? Hey, I believe we all have it. It’s only a matter of knowing how to unlock that area in our consciousness and let our subconscious lead the way. Astral projection is yet another “unexplained” phenomenon that exists but nobody wants to touch it! That’s me own opinion, really.
Anyway, I can tell you that “Waking the Dreamer” was a bloody good read for me! I had so much fun with it! The TWIST itself garners a SHOUT OUT, imho!
READ IT if you haven’t already!
*A copy of this book was given to me by the author in return for an honest feedback*
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