This week is the third installment of my Halloween special through the month of October (two more to go). I am taking on one of my favorite authors, Stephen Lawhead. While the majority of his novels focus on mythic history, the book this week, “Dream Thief” is science fiction/horror. Some of the die-hard Lawhead fans may question my categorization of this book as part horror, but I think it fits in with this month’s theme quite nicely.
“Dream Thief” introduces Dr. Spence Reston, Sleep Scientist, on board the orbiting space station Gotham. The story starts with Spence, as he is known through most of the book, ending a sleep study on himself. Unfortunately, I find this to be a major failing in the story and a weak start to the book. Lawhead’s introduction of the antagonist seems like such a theft from a real-life individual (still alive mind you) even down to the villain’s name, although it is spelled differently, that suspending disbelief for the sake of a science fiction story is near impossible without inserting this man – whose name is withheld not to introduce spoilers.
Lawhead’s dialogue is a saving grace for this book. His deftly uses dialogue to move the story along and make up for some of the weaker areas of the story. Additionally, his descriptions of space, future technology, Mars, and the space station, Gotham, do bring the setting to life in the reader’s mind.
At this point, I’d like to address the horror aspect of “Dream Thief.” As the hero begins his journey, he quickly begins to slip into madness. From time to time, his insanity is indistinguishable from reality which can accelerate the downward spiral the man was already on. This can be one of the more vexing symptoms that even the most sane person can experience and begin to doubt that sanity.
In summary, I found parts of “Dream Thief” difficult to muddle through, while other parts flew by in the manner of the page turner I had expected having been exposed to Lawhead’s mythic fantasy books. I give the book two flags.