Johnny's Reviews > Interstate Dreams

Interstate Dreams by Neal Barrett Jr.
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Nov 19, 09

bookshelves: thriller
Read in November, 2009

It’s a shame that Interstate Dreams disappeared into my basement library and from there into my storage room. I had intended to read the bizarre novel by Neal Barrett, Jr. ever since he gave me the autographed copy. Sadly, it has been neglected until I found it last week in order to read it this week. Interstate Dreams is well-named. Its protagonist is a fellow named Dreamer, a Vietnam veteran with a piece of shrapnel in his head that not only causes him to interpret various aspects of his life in colors, but use those colors to circumvent certain physical laws (mostly having to do with electronic and digital devices). As with many of Barrett’s works, the story isn’t the primary matter. The mystery isn’t all that compelling and I found myself hardly caring at all how the main story unfolded. What I cared about was the supporting cast.
What could be more memorable than a child who speaks in Renaissance Faire language at all times? What could be more fun than the mojo-wielding, syncretistic black woman who weaves together the sacred and the celebrity into a bizarre form of pop-culture Rastafarianism and Bible-thumping Pentecostalism with a near-voodoo twist? What could be more fascinating than a Vietnam vet living with a crazed former VC colonel? What could be more amazing than a fat German businessman who was adamant about collecting all of the missing Fokker DVIIIs allegedly disassembled by Hermann Goering and hidden away at the end of WWI? The supporting cast in this novel would be a tribute to the equaling bizarre casts in Carl Hiaasen novels.
It’s an entertaining experience. My favorite part was when the German businessman forced Dreamer to dogfight in one of the valuable Fokkers. I won’t give away the salient details except to say that Barrett handled the action as well as an adventure of G8 and his Battle Aces (fortuitously referred to in the novel itself). And, of course, I loved the dream sequences—even if some would have to be identified as “For Mature Audiences Only.”
The events in the story line are improbable, ridiculous, and occasionally jar you out of delightful suspended disbelief, but the moments when you are pulled into the vortex of anomie and catastrophe that is the jaundiced world of Neal Barrett, Jr. are worth the effort.
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