Karen Thompson Walker is a master at showing us what everyday people deal with during an apocalyptic event. She did it brilliantly in The Age of Miracles and I’m so glad she’s back with another character-driven tale in The Dreamers.
It begins in the dorms of a small college town and it doesn’t take long for this mysterious virus that puts people in a long, deep sleep to start spreading beyond the college’s walls. To watch the virus’ effect, we follow some college students, a young professor and his wife and newborn, a survivalist dad and his young daughters, an older biology professor, and a specialist from nearby Los Angeles. No one knows exactly how it spreads, what it is, and what the outcome will be, and it all gets much more complicated when the military and news crews move in.
Reading this book is quite terrifying, because I have always imagined what a spreading virus like this would look, sound, and feel like, and here it’s all vibrantly laid out. We follow the denial and panic these characters go through, along with all the things they have to do to try to survive. Their emotions are all over the board and so were mine as I watched them scavenge for food, hunker down in their houses, question everything, and feel completely helpless.
I loved this character-driven story, but I am still trying to figure out what I feel about the ending, because I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it either. For some things it felt a little abrupt and a little too easy, but getting there was fabulous. I would still highly recommend this book if you’re looking for a tense, suspenseful, apocalyptic tale following people like you and me. And then go back and read The Age of Miracles and anything else Karen Thompson Walker writes in the future, because she’s got this genre down.