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The Dreamers

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In an isolated college town in the hills of Southern California, a freshman girl stumbles into her dorm room, falls asleep—and doesn’t wake up. She sleeps through the morning, into the evening. Her roommate, Mei, cannot rouse her. Neither can the paramedics who carry her away, nor the perplexed doctors at the hospital. Then a second girl falls asleep, and then another, and panic takes hold of the college and spreads to the town. As the number of cases multiplies, classes are canceled, and stores begin to run out of supplies. A quarantine is established. The National Guard is summoned.

Mei, an outsider in the cliquish hierarchy of dorm life, finds herself thrust together with an eccentric, idealistic classmate. Two visiting professors try to protect their newborn baby as the once-quiet streets descend into chaos. A father succumbs to the illness, leaving his daughters to fend for themselves. And at the hospital, a new life grows within a college girl, unbeknownst to her—even as she sleeps. A psychiatrist, summoned from Los Angeles, attempts to make sense of the illness as it spreads through the town. Those infected are displaying unusual levels of brain activity, more than has ever been recorded. They are dreaming heightened dreams—but of what?

303 pages, Hardcover

First published January 15, 2019

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Karen Thompson Walker

3 books1,788 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 6,408 reviews
Profile Image for Lala BooksandLala.
500 reviews64k followers
January 29, 2019
This was magic. Highly recommend, but for a very specific audience. If you enjoy having tons of characters (that you don't necessarily get time to connect with or "like") and appreciate a vague, mysterious tone through to the end...get to it. 4.5 stars.
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,993 reviews298k followers
January 23, 2019
These days, science doesn’t take much interest in dreams.

2½ stars. I'm rating this purely based on my personal enjoyment and connection with the narrative. Some people are going to love this book.

I read Walker's The Age of Miracles more than six years ago, didn't love it, but wanted to give her another try. I know my tastes have changed. Maybe even the author had changed, too. As it turns out, my review of her debut is fairly similar to how I feel about The Dreamers, comma splices aside.

This book is full of dreamy hypnotic prose. I can count on one hand the amount of books where this style has worked for me. In fact, right now, I can't actually think of one. There's this sense that you are looking down on everything from a distance; through a haze. It is written in third person and moves through small chapters - vignettes, almost - with many different people who I never felt a connection to.

The Dreamers' premise is virtually identical to King's Sleeping Beauties, except here the sleeping sickness can affect men and appears to be contagious. The major difference, I feel, is in how much we are pulled into the characters lives. Sleeping Beauties was not a fast-paced book, but I felt very drawn into the drama. With a page count almost twice as long as this book, it's hardly surprising that there was far more character development.

In the first few chapters of The Dreamers, a girl dies under mysterious circumstances, her friends and parents mourn, and it is all narrated with such bizarre detachment. The sleeping sickness spreads from there and the author explores how it affects many different lives. Some of this is interesting; some of it feels repetitive.

It is a book for those who enjoy sleepy, beautifully-written novels. The characters won't stay with me, personally, nor should you come into this expecting a satisfying sci-fi story in which things are explained. Much like dreams, a lot doesn't make sense in this book. What I will probably remember the longest are the quotes that touched me. Such as this one:
This is how the sickness travels best: through all the same channels as do fondness and friendship and love.

CW: Suicide.

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Profile Image for Angela M .
1,309 reviews2,191 followers
January 12, 2019

This narrative style! From the first paragraph I knew I was going to be so pulled into this story, whatever it was going to be, by the writing. There is something about it, the way Karen Thompson Walker tells this story. It’s third person narrative and I felt removed as if I was watching this on film or on the stage but at the same time there’s an intimacy that affords the reader a connection to these characters, their fears, their loneliness, their pasts, and their dreams from this deep sleep. While this felt very visual, I didn’t find the language to be overly descriptive. It was clear and concise and beautiful.

In a small town of Santa Lora, California the sleep sickness, caused by a virus first hits a college dorm. One by one they are taken to the hospital, until some doctors and nurses fall into this sleep, and the hospital as well as the dorm are placed under quarantine and then the library where overflow patients are taken and the gym where the students from the affected dorm floor are taken. It’s an eerie feeling as Santa Lora is placed under quarantine - no one in or out. We see the crisis through the lives of fairly large cast of characters who are not depicted as mere statistics, but as real people that we may know or could be. Rebecca, the second victim lies in the hospital and we come to know something about her that she can’t know in her sleep state until the dreams come to her. Mei, a lonely college freshman for whom connections become possible through the crisis. Sara and Libby, eleven and twelve year old girls, who are forced to care for themselves. Anne and Ben and their newborn daughter, adjusting to parenthood and facing the crisis. These are some of the characters I came to know and care about along with others as the narrative alternates between their points of view, sometimes overlapping as they connect with each other.

I might have given this 5 stars, but it lagged in the middle and then it seemed the ending came so abruptly. I’m not sure I really understood what the dreams meant. Were they memories of the past? Were they about the future? But what I do know is that this was a haunting, thought provoking, and hopeful story. Mei whose loneliness broke my heart, says of people she sees on the street , “One of the women outside is walking barefoot in her business suit. Where are her shoes ? Mei wonders, but that’s the thing about strangers: you don’t get to hear their stories.” The thing I loved most about this book is that we do get to hear their stories.

Esil, thanks so much for the recommendation because you were right that I would like this book. I’m so glad I followed up because this is so much more than I thought it would be. I also highly recommend The Age of Miracles, the author’s first novel which was a 5 star read for me.

I received an advanced copy of this book from Random House through NetGalley.
Profile Image for Dorie  - Cats&Books :) .
1,025 reviews2,976 followers
August 28, 2019
It is much harder for me to write a review of a book that I did not like rather than one I loved. I do not usually read science fiction/fantasy or whatever genre this would be assigned to but the reviews were so good for this novel I decided to give it a try.

(Possible spoilers)

The premise is not a new one. There have been many books written and movies made of a virus or some alien illness infecting humans and making them behave in one way or another. In this case whatever this is, makes humans fall into a deep sleep. Doctors have them hooked up for hydration and they show high levels of brain activity, but what does it all mean? It starts in the dorm of a college town in Santa Lora, California, a very idyllic setting. The book initially had me hooked, I kept reading to see where it was all going to lead.

At first it is just the college students being infected and they are not allowed to leave the floor of their dorm. But quarantine does not work as many of the students on the floor continue to fall into the sleeping sickness. They are then moved to a gym and not allowed to leave, still more fall ill. It was thought that perhaps the ventilation system was to blame for the sickness but that has been ruled out.

There are many elderly people in a nursing home who fall ill to the sickness. Now the doctors and nurses that are tending them are sick, it seems no one is safe.

I would like to say that this book has strong characters, but I did not find that to be the case. We get to know a young couple, both professors, who have an infant just a few weeks old. We get to know a bit about their life before they moved here and how they are now working as a team, groggy from lack of sleep, as all parents of newborns are, but now never leaving their baby alone, fearful for the first signs that she will not wake up.

Mei is a college freshman who really wanted to be in an Arts program but her mother insisted on this college instead. She is shy and has trouble making friends. She could have been made more interesting if we knew more about her background. For her this forced kinship with others from her dorm floor almost seems like a good thing.

There are a lot of loose threads in this book. There was mention several times that the lake level was lower than normal. Did this have something to do with the sickness? Nothing is ever resolved.

Thrown into this mix it is discovered that a college student, Rebecca, has become pregnant and she is one of the last to awaken, nearly a year later. In the meantime she has given birth to a girl, but when she wakes she can only remember a strange “dream” where she is the mother of a son and is already past middle age. Is this a characteristic of this illness??? Who knows, we don’t hear of anyone else with this type of dream????

There was a group of people who had been staying in a motel but run into the forest to escape quarantine. Was there something wrong with the motel? They all soon fall sick.

There were so many individual occurrences that never seemed to lead to a resolution or cure. There is quite a large cast of characters but I didn’t find them to be well described.

Then there is a wildfire in the mountains and again for unexplained reasons, many people wake up from their dreamlike sleep while others perish. Can this be the cure????

This was one of the most frustrating reads I’ve had in a long time. I felt no strong connection to any of the characters. There were so many ideas or hints at things that may be causing the sickness but in the end there is no resolution and the sleeping sickness as it was being called never spread beyond this small town.

In the end, even after several days to think about it I was still left with the question of “what did I just read”?

I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher through Edelweiss.
Profile Image for Kaceey.
1,130 reviews3,713 followers
November 24, 2018
College. A time when teens begin the transformation into adulthood... Truly, just teenagers experiencing life away from home for the first time. Wide-eyed excitement, anticipation and seemingly endless opportunities the world has to offer them.

But at an un-assuming, small college in Santa Lora California, that idyllic life is about to change forever.

When Kara comes home unusually early from a night of drinking, she slips quietly into her dorm, and climbs into her bunkbed. The next morning, her roommate Mei can’t wake her from what seems like a deep, drunken slumber. It’s not long before everyone realizes this is only the beginning, as others begin to drift away into the same deep, deep sleep.

Are these students playing a college prank? Copying each others’ behavior? Or does the town need to take this more seriously?

This book had me hooked from start to finish. It seemed to have, pardon the pun, a real dream-like quality to it. I couldn’t wait to see where this was headed and what was behind it all. If you’re ready for something a little different that’ll leave you mystified and yes, maybe just a little bit scared, this is one you must add to your list! I highly recommend.

A fabulous buddy read with Susanne!

Thank you to NetGalley, Random House - Publishing Group and Karen Thompson Walker for an ARC to read in exchange for an honest review
Profile Image for Holly  B .
851 reviews2,023 followers
February 2, 2019
An epidemic of perpetual sleep strikes a small town.

Many are "trapped" not by a captor, but by their own slumber.

I was captivated immediately from page one. A frightful opening made me ever so curious to read on...

This author's writing style was mesmerizing and magical . I was absorbed in her words and the fictional town in California. Literary fiction at its best without needless side stories or wasted dialogue. The story flows effortlessly and I adored it.

It begins with some college dorm students falling ill, into a sleepliness, a dizziness, a state of "dreaming."  As the sleep virus spreads so does the frequency of townspeople wearing hospital masks and blue latex gloves.  There is a growing " buzz of panic and gloom ". Some of terrified of the sensation of sleepiness. Nathaniel believes that "hysteria over the illness is the real disease of the era."

As the cases balloon out of control, no one can stop the unstoppable dreaming state. Some believe it could be a hoax. What is real? What is a dream? 

I adored this story, the magical writing and the tension building suspense. Totally bewitching read. Highly recommend!

I borrowed this one from my local library and it is Available NOW.
Profile Image for Charlotte May.
720 reviews1,118 followers
August 27, 2019
3.5 ⭐️

“We sleep in order to forget.”

Sadly I didn’t love this as much as everyone else seems to. It looked like it would be right up my street – a strange illness overcomes a small town in California and people are falling asleep, not waking up for anything. But unfortunately I was still left disappointed.

The Dreamers follows a collection of characters – constantly flicking between them. From the college students where the virus first appears, to two young girls living alone in a house after their father falls ill, a single father with his 6 week old baby – terrified that if he succumbs to the sickness, his daughter will die.

My main gripe, which is always the same gripe with books of this nature is

Granted – this book does make you think. Those who have fallen asleep appear to have really high brain activity, they are having really elaborate and powerful dreams. Some dream of the future – which may or may not come true. Some dream an entire lifetime, only to wake up and realise it didn’t happen. These instances were fascinating and I loved reading about them.

“These days, science doesn’t take much interest in dreams.”

Overall though, just an OK read. I need more than what I was given, with books like this. I need to know what the author thinks – not just have a load of thoughts thrown our way for us to have to decipher and decide for ourselves.

“There is a difference between what is true and what cannot be measured.”


So it says for fans of Station Eleven (which I LOVED) and Never let me Go (of which I wasn't a fan).
So we shall see how this one goes :)
Profile Image for Debbie.
455 reviews2,901 followers
February 5, 2019

Me? Liking a sci-fi book? It’s true!

And no, I did not undergo electric shock therapy. This book is almost pogo-stick worthy, it’s so damn good. I don’t even know what category this book fits into. To me, it’s not pure sci-fi, really. Is there such a thing as disaster books, like there are disaster movies? Because that’s what it is. It’s not about aliens or weird gadgets; it’s about a virus, a sleeping sickness, that takes over a college town. Maybe it should be called sci-fi light. Well, whatever we want to call it, this book is excellent. And what makes it so excellent is that it’s character-driven—something I don’t usually associate with a sci-fi book.

There are about ten or so characters. Every single one is well-drawn and likeable, and each one evoked my sympathy. Most of the story revolves around a couple with a newborn, a survivalist father and his two young daughters, and two college students who hang out together. There are a couple of other minor characters whose stories I found interesting, too. Halfway through the book I realized with horror, hey, these characters could all get the sleeping sickness (so would be unavailable to entertain me) or they could even die. Ah, so this is one reason why “disaster books” are such a bummer! You get all attached to a character, then poof, they’re gone. What kind of deal is that?! Maybe I should have thought longer about reading a book where so many people may die. But as I continued, I was happy to see there was hope and there were people who were helping, which gave this cynic a little faith in humanity.

The language pulled me in immediately. It’s straightforward, fluff-free, and on the sparse side. It’s dramatic in tone, but not overly dramatic. I was all-in as soon as I opened the book.

There are lots of wise little nuggets:

“Not everything that happens in a life can be digested. Some events stay forever whole. Some images never leave the mind.”

“But isn’t the future always an imaginary thing before it comes?”

“But isn’t every sleep a kind of isolation? When else are we so alone?”

“But it feels good to take care of them—the way it is possible to disappear inside someone else’s need.”

If you’re an Extreme Worrier like I am, the following quote should make you feel better. Hell, it will probably make you strut. (The two sentences are probably why I loved the book so much, lol):

“Worry, she often reminds her patients, is a kind of creativity. Fear is an act of the imagination.”

Many of the characters face moral dilemmas, the kind of questions that come up with natural disasters. Do you help people if it puts you more at risk? Do you leave your children to go help others? Do you obey the quarantine because of the risk to other people? Do you shove to get out first? Remember the famous moral question, if you were in a life boat and could only save one person, how would you choose who to pick? There’s one character who keeps asking those types of questions to his friend. This has significance later in the book, and it’s all subtle and cool.

Fear! Man, a contagious disease spreading fast is going to scare the hell out of everyone. You have the people who live in the town, fearing they will be the next victim. And you have the fretting parents of college kids, totally nutso because they live in other towns and can’t find out if their kids are okay. The book does an amazing job of showing people’s fear, in all its permutations.

The scenes of people desperately trying to leave town were realistic and powerful. They reminded me of what happened during the recent fire in Paradise, California, when the whole town disappeared—the whole friggin’ town! I got an up-close view because my friend’s mom lived there, and she told of a harrowing tale of her escape. She and everyone else lost their house, and they were left basically with the clothes on their back. The trauma is unimaginable. So as I read, I kept flashing on that real disaster. The book definitely gave me a taste of the mayhem, the fear, the urgency of a disastrous event. I felt like I was there, all unchy and crazed.

The book got me thinking about what I would do if it happened in my town. I’ll tell you one thing—I’m sure I would run, just like everyone else. Okay, I realize I can’t really RUN, but I would try to beat feet out of town by car—god, “escape by car” better be an option. But what if I was low on gas? Yi yi yi, I better make sure to keep my gas tank full! If I were smart, I’d probably go fill it up right now. (I must remember that these worries are simply signs of my creativity, lol).

One thing that happened with the sleeping sickness was that people still could dream. Damn, am I going to have to hear about people’s dreams? Because I’ll tell you right now, that doesn’t interest me one iota. Tell me what’s happening now in the real world; I don’t care about what someone’s brain cells are dreaming up. Bor-ing! But thank god, no—the book doesn’t go there.

Instead, the book playfully talks about dreams versus reality; perception funnies; parallel universes; the mixing of past, future and present. The comments pop up but they don’t detract from the plot one bit. If anything, they add some cool eeriness.

What a captivating book. Good characters, suspense, and food for thought. For those of you who shy away from the sci-fi genre, go ahead and dive in. It’s worth it.

Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy.

Profile Image for Larry H.
2,514 reviews29.5k followers
March 11, 2019
Confession time: I'm a total hypochondriac. I don't watch medical shows, because I've convinced myself I'm dying of things it's medically impossible for me to contract. I caught a bad cold two days after finishing The Stand , and I was convinced the end was near. I'm a mess.

Needless to say, it might not have been the best idea to finish Karen Thompson Walker's The Dreamers just before bed, but luckily I'm here to tell you about it.

"The only way to tell some stories is with the oldest, most familiar words: this here, this is the breaking of a heart."

Another semester of college has started in a sleepy Southern California town. Kara leaves a party one night saying she doesn't feel well. Everyone figures she's probably had too much to drink. She gets into bed and falls asleep. She's still asleep when her roommate, Mei, leaves for class the next morning, but Mei isn't concerned, because Kara has done this before. Kara is still asleep when evening comes, but no one can wake her, not Mei, not Kara's friends, not even the paramedics or the doctors at the hospital where she was taken.

The doctors can't figure out what's wrong with her, nor can they explain why she dies the next day. But everyone is unprepared when a second girl in Kara's dorm falls asleep, then a third. That's when panic starts to set in, and as more students, and others they come into contact with at the school fall asleep, fears of an epidemic are sparked.

While doctors are stymied by what is sweeping through the college, and how it can be prevented from spreading, they also make an unusual discovery: "there is more activity in these minds than has ever been recorded in any human brain—awake or asleep."

Slowly, the virus begins to spread through this small town. First it's the hospital and college personnel who fall prey, and then it starts to affect an ever-widening circle of those they've come into contact with. Sarah and Libby, two young sisters, are determined to protect themselves; Ben and Annie, two young professors, withstand the strains of their marriage to try and keep their infant daughter safe; Nathaniel, another professor, worries he may be kept from visiting his husband, who is in a nursing home; and Mei, who, along with another student, tries to make a difference once she stops submerging herself in her own fears.

The Dreamers is a tremendously thought-provoking book about how we come together and tear ourselves apart in the midst of a crisis like this. It's a portrait of fear, courage, love, stubbornness, sacrifice, and selfishness, and the stories of those affected and those waiting to see if they'll be next are very poignant.

As she proved with her first book, The Age of Miracles (see my review), Walker is a great storyteller, combining scientific elements with fantastical ones to yield a book rich with emotion. Where I struggled with The Dreamers , however, is how things were wrapped up. I felt left with more questions than answers, and I really wasn't sure what kind of a message she was sending. The book needed a clearer ending more fitting of the complexity of the plot.

That criticism aside, this is a book that will make you think about how you might act in a similar situation, if you were any of these characters. I look forward to reading Walker's next book, because her talent is too good to sit idle.

See all of my reviews at itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com.

Check out my list of the best books I read in 2018 at https://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com/2019/01/the-best-books-i-read-in-2018.html.

Follow me on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/yrralh/.
Profile Image for Annet.
570 reviews737 followers
December 15, 2019
A rather quiet (well, they are sleeping & dreaming aren't they :-)) apocalyptic read and I liked it. The way it is written, quiet, not much of big dramatic action which is often seen in dystopian novels, it is a quiet although also an emotional report of a drama unfolding in California on a student campus. All of the sudden students go to sleep and don't wake up. It's like a spreading virus. The campus and small city is isolated & quarantined and we follow those awake and asleep, sort of personal reports. Great read, only the ending was a bit like a candle going out for me, although I do understand the essence of it. Enjoyed it, thoughtful and written in a way that you think, this could actually happen.... 4 stars and recommended for those who like the not so harsh, rather poetic dystopian reads.... Food for thought and interesting, definitely.
Profile Image for Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader.
2,185 reviews30.5k followers
December 21, 2018
4 genre spanning stars! ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

The Dreamers is a different sort of read for me, and I’m grateful I read it. The premise? A disease is affecting a college town causing unstoppable sleep and vividly strange dreams.

It all starts at a university in Southern California when a student, Kara, falls asleep and no one can rouse her, not her roommate, Mei, and not even the doctors at the hospital. That event is then followed by another student, and then another, and then the town is sieged with panic by this unknown and perplexing illness.

At first no one knows why this is happening. Are the students playing a prank? With the doctors finding no known medical cause, just what could be going on? I personally cannot imagine how scared I would feel in that situation.

Karen Thompson Walker’s writing is stunning, and I found my emotions all over the place while reading. At times, I was panicked and forlorn, like the townspeople and students. Other times I was emotional over the effects of this disease on the community and individuals within it. There was palpable tension, and again, that frightfulness. Not in the horror kind of way, but in that unknown, insidious, completely out-of-your-control kind of way. The exploration of dreams versus reality was also captivating.

The Dreamers is all about the characters and their raw and authentic emotions. I was so completely transfixed I felt like I was a resident of the town, too. I found The Dreamers a memorable, thought-provoking, insightful, and frightening page-turner. This book spans genres, including eerily tense suspense, light science fiction, and dystopian; all on a backdrop of a glorious character study. Loved it!

Thank you to the publisher for the complimentary ARC. All opinions are my own.

My reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com
Profile Image for Susanne.
1,168 reviews37.3k followers
November 22, 2018
4.25 Stars.

In Santa Lora, California, a College Student, named Kara, falls into a deep dream filled sleep. No one can wake her. She is the first of many.

Mei was Kara’s roommate, she and several other survivors on Kara’s floor, including a teenager named Matthew, have been quarantined. Two sisters, Sara and Libby are left to fend for themselves after their father succumbs to sleep. Around town, there are armed guards, keeping the uninfected together in one place. Supermarkets are out of food and people are scared. The brain waves of the sick are highly unusual showing that the dreamers are in an active dream state and no one has any idea what it means.

My nerves were on high alert from the very first, my detective skills working overtime trying to figure out every possible scenario. Can you blame me? I mean, even though it sounds somewhat innocuous, this is still an illness I have no interest in catching.

Karen Thompson Walker’s “The Dreamers” is slow to build, but it immediately transfixes you. It is intriguing, lovely, lyrical and yes, a bit terrifying. It makes you think about the idea of community v confinement and which situation would help or hurt you most in a situation like this. “The Dreamers” also makes you ponder your dreams and what they mean. If you’ve ever had crazy dreams, this novel gives you food for thought!

This is a character driven novel: my heart lurched and my chest pounded and I felt like I was on an emotional roller coaster. “The Dreamers” is quite different, it has a “sleepily” quality to it, if you will (ha ha), and it’s a highly satisfying, haunting read which I absolutely loved.

This was a buddy read with Ms. Kaceey! So so glad we read this one together!

Thank you to NetGalley, Random House Publishing Group - Random House and Karen Thompson Walker for an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Published on NetGalley, Goodreads and Twitter on 11.21.18.
Profile Image for Matt.
34 reviews46 followers
March 4, 2019
I picked up “The Dreamers” because the premise sounded very similar to one of my favorite books, “The Leftovers” by Tom Perrotta. “The Leftovers” follows the lives of characters that find themselves questioning their existence after millions of people vanish from Earth without any explanation. Karen Thompson Walker manages to write about the same kinds of themes as Perrotta, but she makes it her own by using a much more surreal writing style. The writing style matches the title perfectly. I’m a sucker for books that are about existential dread and “The Dreamers” was compelling for me throughout the entire novel.

The story follows multiple characters as they realize that there is a mysterious illness falling upon the town of Santa Lora, California. People are falling asleep and not waking up. The illness has such a large effect on the town that they have to quarantine the population to get the illness under control. With scientists and doctors baffled by the cause of the illness, the people who haven’t caught the sleep sickness are left trying to figure out how to keep some feeling of normal. “People don’t know what to say, there’s nothing to say.”

The book has a plot, but it’s not the main focus of the book. The main focus is the characters and how they deal with these unfortunate and unexplained events. The characters range from a college aged girl falling in love to a married couple struggling to make sense of the world as they try and raise their newborn daughter. There were some characters I liked more than others, but I’m certain that anyone reading the novel will cling to certain characters and perhaps see themselves in the actions and feelings of more than one character throughout the story. The theme of how characters handle uncertainty in the world struck me and sat with me. It’s still sitting with me.
“All the days are such a darkness, that all of us move through our hours as if blindfolded, never knowing what will happen next.”

Our experience in this world is personal and different for everyone but it’s novels like “The Dreamers” that make us feel more connected to the human experience. When bad things happen we all try to look for answers, but in the end the answers are found within ourselves and the people around us, not necessarily in the chaotic and unpredictable world we live in.
Profile Image for Cheri.
1,800 reviews2,384 followers
November 8, 2018
4.5 Stars

”We all end in the ocean
We all start in the streams
We're all carried along
By the river of dreams
“In the middle of the night”

-- The River of Dreams, Billy Joel, Songwriters: Billy Joel

“Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream.”

A Dream Within A Dream, Edgar Allan Poe

It begins at the college.

A girl named Kara. A party. She leaves, not feeling well, thinking she is coming down with something, she is so very, very tired. She makes it back to her dorm room, and falls asleep in her clothes, her boots still on, so that when her roommate wakes up the next morning she finds her sound asleep. Not wanting to disturb her, Mei dresses quietly and leaves the room as soundlessly as possible.

When Mei returns nine hours later, Kara is still asleep in bed, and Mei calls her name, again and again, but Kara does not respond. Not to Mei. Not to the paramedics who come. She’s oblivious to the sounds around her, the sounds of her six-week-new friends calling out to her as she is wheeled away on a stretcher. The sirens. The bumps along the road. The doctors trying to wake her.

She sleeps through it all.

This sickness moves through the dorm, and then spreads beyond the campus - slowly at first, insidiously. From an elderly man to the young, people begin to fall victim to this unnatural sleep, the hospital begins to fill up with people, alive but sleeping, dreaming unusually vivid dreams, the kind that would feel all too real – if only they would awaken.

I wanted to read this as I had read Karen Thompson Walker’s The Age of Miracles, her debut novel which was set in a dystopian near future. This is more science fiction mixed with fairy tale / fantasy fiction, perhaps, than dystopian, as these people succumb to sleep in a way that reminded me of watching Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow and the Lion (and Toto, too) on their way to Oz and suddenly, one by one, all but the Tin Man succumb to the overwhelming need to sleep.

Walker dips into the theories of Freud, Jung and others now and then in the ponderings and theories of the unfamiliar, unnatural dream state these people have entered into, which is shown by their unusual brain activity. At the same time she brings us into this world, the tenuous nature of this delicate, almost ethereal place these people find themselves in, the sleeping and those who are surrounded by the confines created by those sleeping.

How this virus is spread, the response of those who are supposed to help and protect, the question of an allegiance to those we know and love vs. strangers, the fragility of life, these are among the provocative ideas and questions that are posed in this novel.

Beautifully creative and subtly unsettling story of a community faced with a devastating threat, shared through gorgeous prose, and a story that keeps you turning pages through some unexpected twists, all the while loving every minute.

Pub Date: 15 JAN 2019

Many thanks for the ARC provided by Random House Publishing Group – Random House
January 8, 2019
4.5 stars

A fantastic buddy read with my friend Marialyce, this beautifully written book hit all the right notes with everything I love in a novel. The premise is not a new one but the story Thompson writes is unique and compelling. What makes this book different is the thoughtful nature of the writing, the dreamy quality, and the brilliant turns of phrases. This is not a horror/sci-fi/thriller, but a quiet character study.
A sleeping sickness strikes a quiet, fictional college town in California. It begins in a college dorm and initial attempts to contain the illness fail. The disease is determined to be airborne, and the entire town is quarantined. The different ways the residents deal with such a threat makes for riveting reading.
 What makes this novel compelling are the characters, most notably:
      A college freshman who is terribly unhappy and lonely but finds a friend/lover when they team up as volunteers.
      Two motherless young girls who live with their doomsday prepper father who nonetheless failed to prepare for all potential scenarios.
      A couple with a shaky marriage struggles to cope with the needs and demands of a newborn and the threat from the sickness
      A young dreamer who unknowingly became pregnant the night before she was struck down and whose parents are sitting vigil at her bedside
      A psychiatrist brought in from out of town to assist with studying the dreamers, who now finds herself quarantined away from her young daughter

 The sleepers show unusually high brain activity than is considered normal, asleep or awake. Their brains are in a deep REM sleep stage. The strongest narratives in the novel are when we are given glimpses into the character’s lives, past and present, and into the minds of the victims as they dream. Some characters are more fully developed than others and I found myself caring deeply about what happened to them. 
Eventually, some dreamers wake up and struggle with assimilating back into their regular lives. The past, present, and future are fluid and they (and we) are left pondering reality and the nature of time. Is there a thin line between dreams and reality? Is there fluidity of time: past, present and future? Are there alternate realities that exist out there in time and space?

 The illness itself is not the focus of the novel and few answers are provided, which worked for me but may not for some readers. Some threads are left dangling. Even now, a couple days after finishing, I find myself thinking about it. I appreciated not being spoon fed by the author but allowing her readers to ponder the issues. This would make an excellent book club choice.

Highly recommended for fans of character-driven novels who are looking for something different and who do not require their endings to be neat and tidy.

• Many thanks to NetGalley, Random House, and the author for a digital copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,783 reviews14.2k followers
January 8, 2019
3.5 Memories, dreams and a mysterious illness. It starts at the local college where a young girl cannot be woken. After that it spreads daily, until the entire town is quarantined. Not enough doctors, nurses, patients are taken to different places after the hospital fills up. Patients, parents, those who are trying to help, all fearful they will be next. What is causing this? No medical professional has any idea, no cure. All they know is that the sleepers are dreaming.

Right book at the right time, was in the mood for something a little different, and I was pulled into this story. Many characters, but the novel actually folows, I believe five different family units. The panic realistically portrayed, as was their desperation. Food running out, dogs starving in the streets as their owners sucuumb. Some dream of past events, some of the future, and some maybe from another life.

The ending I felt a little abrupt, but I was okay with that.
Profile Image for Lindsay L.
679 reviews1,324 followers
April 15, 2019
4.5 stars! A beautifully written, spellbinding story!

Santa Lora is a small college-town community. A quiet town where not much happens, until a sleeping epidemic starts. Beginning within the college dormitory, students begin to fall into a deep sleep, leaving them in a semi-conscious state, unable to be woken. Doctors have never encountered this disease. Panic spreads, as does this disease - areas are isolated, quarantines set up, make-shift hospital areas created, emergency help is sent. How does this disease spread? Who will it affect? Where did it come from? Is there a cure?

This type of story would not generally be something I would read. I have a hard time suspending disbelief so I need to have realistic storylines and characters. After reading several raving reviews of this novel, I just had to give it a try. Am I ever glad I did! The writing is exquisitely unique and mesmerizing. I fell into the trance of the story within the first few pages and was completely consumed by the narrative. I had an immediate connection to the story as a whole, my curiosity piqued and hungry to get to the resolution. Never once did I struggle with disbelief of what was happening – I was completely engaged and hopeful.

Told through multiple characters perspectives, the story unfolded brilliantly. I was engaged with each character, however, my sole focus was on the big picture of how the community reacted and managed this obscure disease. I was invested in this small towns’ fight to combat this epidemic.

This was my first novel by the author, Karen Thompson Walker. I look forward to reading more from her! This novel will stay on my mind for some time.

This was a Traveling Sister read that we all enjoyed experiencing together!

Thank you to my lovely local library for the loan of this fantastic book!
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,314 reviews44.1k followers
January 20, 2019
3.5 stars
The story was interesting, mystery development was also good. But the characters’ emotional backgrounds and their inner stories were missing.
Even Ben and Annie who were declared “Romeo and Juliet” did not attract my interest.
The reason of girls father’s obsession to protect them and their past with his wife hasn’t been told, too.
Something was missing in this book. But I think it has enough material that Hollywood producers would be interested to turn this book into series. Look what they did to Bird Box😌
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Ova - Excuse My Reading.
480 reviews364 followers
September 1, 2018
Now there's a guarantee I am giving to you: If you liked Station Eleven you will love this book.

I have never heard of Karen Thompson Walker before, but felt intrigued by the book description on NetGalley. I am so glad I have read this book. It is one of the fabulous finds, a book you pick by instinct and left you amazed.

I can summarise this as a borderline science fiction character drama- just like Station Eleven it swirls around lives of a bunch of people after a catastrophe- although in this book it's not a world-wide event, but a small town disaster, Walker masterfully delivering the intense feel of a lock down. There is sadness in this book but it's not cringe, beautiful as if a form of art.

Set in fictional university town Santa Lora in California, the book starts when some college girls fall asleep and fail to wake up. They dream. But no one knows what's causing this. Story moves between different point of views, Sara and Libby with their paranoid dad, a young married couple, Ben and Annie with their new born baby girl Grace, two castaway college students, Mei and Matthew, and a man named Nathaniel. I found almost all character's point of views really enjoyable and loved the way the story was delivered. The last chapter is one to remember.

I personally think the situation of a virus spread was handled excellently- no exaggeration, o unnecessary drama, as if a dish with all proper ingredients and a spot on pinch of spices. If you like psychological books with touch of sci-fi I will highly recommend.
5 stars and will definitely read Walker again.
Profile Image for Carol.
1,370 reviews2,157 followers
March 12, 2019
Another winner for Karen Thompson Walker! Thought I was reading Stephen King there for a bit.

The scariest things sometimes are NOT visible to the naked eye, but appear in our dreams.

Something has happened in the small, isolated town of Santa Lora, population 12,106. "At first they blame it on the air." Some say it may have been here before, a curse perhaps....decades ago. This time it begins at a college with a young girl who doesn't feel well, thinks she might have the flu, and is so tired she falls into a deep sleep.

More and more students are found sleeping, won't wake up. The sickness spreads to the town....along with fear and panic. A father's scary declaration seems to become reality, children are left to fend for themselves, and a weird, idealistic college student who fancies asking what if DEATH scenario questions of his fellow dorm dwellers makes a big decision....one that I guess shouldn't have surprised me....but did.

THE DREAMERS is an engrossing character driven novel about an airborne virus "unusually contagious like measles: you can catch measles if you walk through a room ten minutes after an infected person has coughed a single cough." Scary.....

But THE DREAMERS....what do they see in their sleep? What is real? What is imaginary?

***Wishes do come true! Arc provided by Random House Publishing Group - Random House in exchange for an honest review***

Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews621 followers
January 30, 2019
Enter la-la land.....
This was a fascinating-eerie story. Mysterious right from the beginning.
Head-scratching puzzle of a novel....

We keep hearing how important sleep is- that lack of sleep is the cause for many health issues.
Perhaps this college town with hundreds sleeping are revitalizing their minds and body. Too many college exams and late night parties are a health hazard.
I had a little fun with this novel - my own cuckoo mind was captured by the dreamy-atmosphere. As the characters fell into dreamland... so did I.

I thought about walk-out strikes from jobs-
Then chuckled at the thought of a town going on strike from being awake. Why not?
Maybe in the way natural forest fires are nature’s way of cleaning out the earth...
a sleeping town rests to replenish the health of humanity.
This book gave me the *Willy-Chillies* - at times - yet there was so much beauty in the writing. It was dystopia without horror.
The stories - characters - prose - were all compelling!!!

Great exploration of the unconscious - awake or asleep.....what’s the difference?

Mystery land of dreamland ..
We wonder.....
Do we dream of our past? Our future?
Is ‘awake’ life really any more real than dream life?
Again... hell if I know!
Kudos to the author -
Very creative novel of the unknown world.

Guess I need to read “The Age of Miracles”.
Profile Image for Esil.
1,118 reviews1,363 followers
January 7, 2019
I stepped right out of my comfort zone with The Dreamers. I usually stay miles away from anything that has a sci-fi or surreal feel. But I read so many positive reviews of The Dreamers that I became curious. And I must confess that I had requested an advance copy without realizing what it was about. So I dipped my toe in the first few pages and got hooked. In fact, I loved it. The premise is simple. A small isolated university town in California is hit with a sleeping disease. It starts with a few students and then spreads to many people in the town. The story is told in a somewhat dreamy tone, shifting between different characters whose lives intersect in various ways as they are caught up in the effects of this mysterious illness. The fabulous writing and the depiction of the characters and their various reactions are what had me glued to this book. It made for an intense reading experience — leaving me with lots of food for thought. It wasn’t quite a 5 star read because I felt like the story got a bit bogged down in the middle, but it was awfully close to 5 stars. Again, the writing was just phenomenal. I’m definitely not a convert to sci-fi or speculative fiction or whatever genre this book would fall in, but the door is no longer shut as firmly. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy.
Profile Image for Tooter.
442 reviews184 followers
March 6, 2019
I fully expected not to love this book as it's not my choice of genre. But I found myself really looking forward to reading each night as it was very well written and riveting. Highly recommend, even if it's not a genre that you normally read.
Profile Image for Tammy.
524 reviews439 followers
September 11, 2018
This is the sophomore effort from Walker and is broader in scope than her first novel, The Age of Miracles. A sleeping sickness sweeps across a college dorm and spreads beyond the confines of the campus. Many people, at different stages of life, fall asleep and dream. This is an unnatural sleep and brain activity indicates that these are unnatural dreams. This reads very much like a Young Adult novel and presents questions about the dream state vs. reality that were considered by Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Descartes, Freud, Jung and many others. The variety of characters and their disparate reactions to the sickness is what makes this more than simply a speculative illness novel.
Profile Image for Felice Laverne.
Author 1 book3,229 followers
February 12, 2020
The eyelids flutter. The breathing is irregular. The muscle tone is visibly slack. With each new patient…these signs that the sleepers might be dreaming.

Karen Thompson Walker’s sophomore novel, The Dreamers, took me by storm. Excuse the cliché, but it swept me up inside of an imaginative world that was close enough to reality as to not be science fiction but close enough to an altered reality as to border dystopia. The sickness sweeping the town took on a life of its own—the true antagonist in this novel. It left behind an eerie quiet upon this Southern California town, which Walker punctuated beautifully— disconcertingly: an explosion here, a dog still on its leash wandering the silent neighborhood there, a man sleepwalking in the middle of the road who may or may not meet his end with a vehicle. I wasn’t sure that I would fall in love with this novel from the start. Yet, Walker’s un-embellished method of storytelling grew on me gradually but commendably in such a way that I hadn’t realized I’d fallen for this book until I was already hopelessly at its mercy, drawn into its altered reality completely.

Mei is a freshman in college when the sleeping sickness chokes the small town she lives in. She’s suffering from typical first-year introvert blues: not fitting in, being generally ignored by the entire student body around her. Until. It starts in her dorm, on her floor, with the pretty, lip gloss smacking girls and popular boys falling prey to sleep one by one. When a panic stirs and the students are quarantined, it’s not long before they find a way to break out of captivity and scatter, running in all directions, back into the world—carrying the sleeping sickness sweeping across the town with them.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Dreamers. It is a thoughtful read featuring a cast of odd-balls. The social outcasts and unconventionalists reign supreme within these pages, offering the reader an inside glimpse into a young couple’s broken marriage, a motherless household of doomsday preppers, and one man’s sorrow at the loss of his partner.

I will say that I wish the book had gone further, pushed the bounds just a tad more. That is both a compliment and a critique simultaneously, the former in that I wanted to read more about these characters, and the latter in that I wish Walker had explored this avenue she started to veer on toward the end: an avenue lined in nightmares and premonitions.

“Like just now,” he says. “When you came into the kitchen, I had the sensation that you were standing beside me, but that was before you walked in.” It’s like everything’s out of order, he says, like there’s something wrong with the sequence, as if the future were coming before the past.

I wonder where this path could have led us, what wondrous views we could have seen from that perch. Alas, Walker took us to the edge of that cliff—far enough so that we could see what could be—but never pushed us into the arms of what was below. Some would praise her for such restraint, while others would yearn to place their feet upon that path less taken. I, myself, am on the fence, one foot hanging midair of what could have been, the other solidly placed in the reality of what the novel offered.

The Dreamers moved me. I thought about this book when I was away from it and turned the pages swiftly, hungrily, when I was in its company. I recommend this novel to lovers of fiction writing, particularly dystopian fiction or narratives featuring altered realities and small towns in a panic. I liked the compactness of the book, the fact that every word, every chapter, had its place in moving the narrative forward. But, I would not have objected to being taken further into this new dimension that was presented but only tepidly explored. All in all, Karen Thompson Walker and The Dreamers earned a solid 4.5 stars rounded up to 5.


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Profile Image for Marialyce (on our way to Venice).
2,038 reviews709 followers
February 24, 2019
4.5 stars
“To sleep, perchance to dream” and dream and dream and dream.....

Sometimes a book can force you into places you only take a moment to think about. At other times, a book can bring you to places where your brain engages thinking in many diverse directions long after the last word was read. The book, The Dreamers, was such a book that made you not only think but wonder about the very things that govern our being....the brain, the fear of illnesses, and the power of sleep and dreams.

There is a virus that is plaguing a town. It is a sickness that causes one to fall into a deep sleep, not waking but suspended in a deep dream state, one from which you cannot wake. People succumb to the sickness, people die, and as the town and others rush to help, the town is quarantined and the people left wakeful deal and do what they can with those in deep sleep.

Characters are presented and each one deals with the prospect of family and possibly themselves becoming one of the sleepers, the unwakeful, those who can’t deal with the needs of life and need the wakeful to tend them. Scary and frightening and yet a journey into the unknown world of our brain and what happens when we sleep, including the fear of never awakening, and the places we all venture to when life is precarious and death seems eventual.

There were so many positives about this book. The writing was exquisite propelling the reader forward with mystifying detail designed to entice the reader to form their own opinions and draw their own path through the story. There were no easy answers, really no answers at all, and yet in just that aspect alone, the book shines. How one thinks of sleep, of death, of a journey between time and dimensions, this book will touch upon all that. Your thoughts about the concept of sleep, the fear of never returning to a life once lived, and the untouched potential of our brain are there for you to ponder.

Reading this book with my book partner, Jan, made for an amazing experience. We both came away with many questions, few answers, but a reading experience that was enriching and ever so fulfilling.

Thank you to Karen Thompson Walker, Random House Publishing, and NetGalley for a copy of this thought provoking novel.
This book is due to be published on January 15, 2019
My reviews can also be seen here: http://yayareadslotsofbooks.wordpress...
Profile Image for Andrew Smith.
1,082 reviews620 followers
November 4, 2020
Something strange is happening in the college town of Santa Lora, tucked away in the hills some 70 miles from Los Angeles. A student from the college has failed to wake up, it’s isn’t that she’s died in her sleep it’s just that she’s slept on…and on. She’s been taken to the local hospital where doctors have established that there are signs only that she’s in a deep, dream filled, sleep. Then another student fails to awaken and then more. The medical team are at a loss to explain this phenomenon. Is it some sort of new virus? If so, how does it spread and what are the risks to the wider population in the college and beyond?

At the centre of this is a student called Mui, a quite girl with no real friends at the college. It is Mui’s roommate that was the first victim of this sleeping malady. As the number of cases ramp up we track her together with a number of other students and members of staff. Nathaniel is a biology professor whose male partner is now in a residential home suffering from a degenerative condition which makes it impossible for to communicate with others. Annie and Ben and young professors who have only recently moved to California from New York. They have a three-week old baby and the strains on their marriage – already evident before the birth of their child – are starting to re-surface under the demands of early parenthood. It’s through the experiences of these people, and others, that we’ll watch events unfold.

It’s a slow moving tale, but a gripping one nonetheless. As this sickness starts to a take hold on the college and surrounding area we wonder if there is a cure or whether those affected will simply wake up at some point. Nobody seems sure of the answer. We also learn more about the key protagonists and, as a result, become invested in their fate. The afflicted patients continue to show signs of REM sleep – i.e. a sleep pattern synonymous with dreaming – but is it possible that this state can continue for days on end?

There is a shift in view towards the end of the book that I wont go into but suffice to say it does give us a new perspective on what’s going on in the minds of these patients. And it throws into deep focus the meaning of dreams: are they, as Freud suggests, to satisfy unconscious desires? Or are dreams just the natural expression of our imagination, integrating our conscious and unconscious lives, as Carl Jung believed? But what of time theory - that the flow of time is an illusion, that the past, present and future are equally real – does that have a role to play here?

This book is at once a suspenseful mystery and a thought provoking enquiry into deep matters of the mind and of time itself. It doesn’t seek to provide the answers but it does ask interesting questions. Thoroughly absorbing.

My sincere thanks to Simon and Schuster UK Fiction and NetGalley for supplying a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Tina Loves To Read.
2,535 reviews1 follower
June 19, 2022
WOW... I really did not know if I would like the book, but I found it at a thrift shop a while ago and I had saw so many good reviews of this book, so I picked it up. I really loved this book, and I cannot believe how much I loved it. It is not the time of book I normally read. It weirdly made me think of the covid-19 virus that is hitting all over the world and also has changed the world so much. In this book a sleeping issues hits a town. It starts at a college. No one knows how it started and no one understands it. Everyone is so scared, and everything changes for the people of the town.
Profile Image for Michelle .
913 reviews1,412 followers
January 10, 2019
In the small town of Santa Lora, CA, on a college campus just like any other in America, a girl comes home from a party claiming not to feel well. The next day she never awakens. As the days and weeks progress others begin to fall asleep unable to be roused. Now it extends beyond the college campus. All the residents of Santa Lora could fall victim.

"At first, they blamed the air. It's an old idea, a poison by the ether, a danger carried by the wind."

It appears that while the victims sleep they are at heightened dream level. What is going on in their minds?

This is such a unique premise and I was immediately gripped from the very first page. The story follows several different characters (all of whom I adored!) as they struggle to make sense of the situation and survive through the aftermath. The entire book radiates a dreamlike quality due to Karen Thompson Walkers phenomenal storytelling. I think this is going to be a wildly popular book in 2019! 4 Dreamy Stars!

Thank you to NetGalley & Random House Publishing for providing me with a digital ARC in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Gabby.
1,307 reviews28k followers
March 18, 2022
Between a 3 and a 4 star
Okay so I didn't love this one as much as I wanted to, but this book is still very beautifully written and thought provoking. This book is a contemporary/sci-fi about a "sleeping virus" that spread through this town in California: all these college students are falling asleep and not waking up and the doctors discover that their brain activity is some of the highest ever recorded, and that they are dreaming, they just don't know what they are dreaming about.

The writing in this book is absolutely gorgeous and definitely my favorite thing about this book. Some of the quotes are so beautiful like: "She is warm with a furious hope, the elation available only to the very young." And that very last page was so beautiful I want it tattooed all over my body. But other than the writing, I had trouble connecting to the characters. This book is written in this distant 3rd person POV and I just didn't find any strong connections to any of the characters. I feel like this book follows too many characters and it jumps around between all of them throughout the story and it was just too much. I think this could've been a much better story with only one or two main characters written in first person POV.

Also, the curious part of me is really irritated with the fact that we never really find out why the sleeping virus exists and where it came from?? I guess it's not exactly the point of the story but the entire story is based around this sleeping virus and we never find out why it happened in the first place and I just need to know alksjdlkajsda. There were definitely some things hinted at at the end of potential reasons why it happened and what those people were experiencing when they were sleeping but nothing is confirmed.

Overall, I'm a bit disappointed because this was a five star prediction from me but oh well, I guess my expectations were a bit too high. This book is still very interesting though and definitely worth a read.

Thank you to Penguin Random House for sending me a copy of this book!
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