I have long been a fan of Stephen Swartz's writing. In The Dream Land, Long Distance Voyager he has ventured into the realm of science-fiction and fantasy, and done it with his own inimitable style.
High school nerds Sebastian and Gina discover a doorway to a new world. Adventure-loving Gina falls in love with the world of Ghoupallesz and wants to stay, but studious Sebastian fears losing touch with Earth, so he returns alone. Nevertheless, he sneaks back time and time again for his own adventures before finally giving it up after too many lost loves, betrayals, and war.
Years later, working night shift at the IRS, Sebastian feels the cosmic pull once more. Gina is in trouble. Again. Of course he must return and save her! Perhaps this time, he hopes, they can remain together. Returning through the inter-dimensional doorway, Sebastian must first gather his old comrades from the war, cross the towering Zet mountains, and free Gina from the evil Zetin warlord’s castle.
Unfortunately, Sebastian finds there are more questions needing answers. Is his adventure on the other side real? Or is it just the dream of a psychotic killer? That’s what the police want to know when his friends and co-workers go missing.
Stephen Swartz has once again created a unique and believable world—both the world we live in and the world of Ghoupallesz. As always, his characters are deep and not always possessed of good intentions. Sebastian is both naïve and worldly, and he is both young and old. Gina was never naïve, with her own agenda and is not exactly straight with Sebastian (or indeed with anyone).
This is most definitely NOT a simple tale of boy rescues girl and they live happily ever after. It is instead a complex, richly layered tale of lives and deaths experienced, and also of dreams versus realities and the blurred line between. It’s a tale of discovery and coming to terms with one’s choices. I found it to be intriguing and not surprisingly, I found myself unable to put this book down once I began reading it.
I am definitely looking forward to Book II, Dreams of Future’s Past.
This review is reposted from Best in Fantasy, and was first published on Dec. 7, 2012.