By Kate E. Stephenson
In this fourth week of March 2013, I hereby call to order the 16th meeting of Kate’s Book Club. Every week, we shall be reading a tome either (a) penned by an author named Kate or (b) that includes a character named Kate.
As promised, Book Clubbers, I am back on an off week to give you the skinny on the final installment of Kate Douglas’ Dream Catchers Series. Let’s jump straight in…
So if you haven’t yet caught up, here’s the basic plot rundown from Dream Catcher (found in the short story collection Nightshift) all the way through Dream Unchained:
Dream Catcher opens with us following Mac, an IT student on the verge of something big when a fellow student somehow steals his idea, notes and all proof that Mac’s was the brilliant mind behind the new technology. Mac is banned from his graduate program and stripped of his scholarship. Dink, Mac’s best friend (and in some ways his soul mate), and Mac determined to figure out how to exonerate Mac. Enter Zianne, a mysterious and beautiful figure who appears out of thin air ready and able to help Mac clear his name. Why?” you ask. So did I. Frankly, so did Mac. And that is exactly the central question of Dream Catcher.
The answer leads to an even greater problem and an immense (and probably impossible) task that Mac has to solve in Dream Bound. Zianne’s life is at stake. The mission is to save the Nyrians, the last of an alien race, from enslavement under the rule of the oppressive Gar who have destroyed the Nyrians home planet and forced them into bondage for millennia while raping and pillaging the planets of other sentient beings—Earth is next on the list. Flash forward 20 years, and Mac has been working like a mad man to reunite with Zianne who has disappeared after finally explaining the real reason she has enlisted Mac’s help. Mac has invented the technology needed to save the Nyrians, but now he needs the team to do it, the dream team—five of the brightest, telepaths that the human race has to offer. Their assignment is to dream the Nyrians into human form, just as Mac did with Zianne 20 years ago, then help the Nyrians find their soul stones and escape the Gar forever.
The question is Can they do it? Can Mac and the dream team unchain the Nyrians after being shackled for so long? Will the potential of the individual members of the team be enough for them to break through their own inhibitions and find more than some seriously sexy satisfaction, but to find redemption? These are the questions answered in Dream Unchained.
Now that you have been fully initiated into the series, I’ve got to tell it to you straight. I must admit that my first impression of Dream Unchained was not as favorable as that of its predecessors. Getting into Unchained was no easy feat. The beginning seemed super slow to me, perhaps because so much of the dialogue and description was dedicated to updating readers who hadn’t read the first two books. While I understand Douglas’ desire to make sure her readers are all on the same page, it became monotonous for this reader and stilted the usual well-paced movement of the narrative. I find that with multiple-book series, it’s intriguing when author’s don’t recap past events; it forces me to go back and read the earlier books of the series. With Dream Unchained that is wholly unnecessary and a bit maddening. I kept wanting to yell, “Get on with it!”
I found the opposite problem with the development of the relationships in the book. While those introduced in Dream Catcher evolve rather naturally, the ones introduced later are force fed miracle grow. We are introduced to Mac, Zianne, and Dink in Dream Catcher, so understandably their relationships have a chance to develop over the full course of the series. But the nuances in many of the younger relationships never seem to fully get their place in the sun to grow and mature. And we are left greatly in the dark about most of the relationships between the dream team and the Nyrian newcomers. We know from the earlier installments that all of the dream team have connected on intimate, bonding levels with the Nyrians, but besides Mac and Zianne, what that connection looks like is obscured.
Having said all of that, Dream Unchained is a book well worth reading. Once you get to the midpoint, the narrative picks up to Douglas’ usual swift pace and the story holds some interesting surprises and more thoughtful insights into love, humanity, and identity. In the vein of classic Science Fiction and Fantasy, Douglas presents a critique about the future of humanity that deserves examination. Questions like: What is it that we seek in the stars? What is it that we value on Earth? How do we reconcile our mundane actions and beliefs with our greater aspirations?
The relationships, interactions, and connections that Douglas creates in this unusual series are challenging. The characters are forced to face themselves in ways that are uncomfortable, unexpected, and difficult for most of us. To recognize the ways in which we run away and the many defense mechanisms we erect to keep ourselves from pain and disappointment is a hard task, because it also requires that we examine those things that make us want to give up or isolate ourselves. Dream Catchers is a great deal more than either erotica or romance. There is an amazing depth that Douglas is able to reach because of the unfettered exploration of sexual desire and the interaction, whether acknowledged or not, between the physical, mental and emotional. I’m a fan, and I believe the hard work is well worth it. Dive in to these dreams and awake renewed.
As always, it’s time to read. Here’s your sneak peak:
It wasn’t until a tangerine slice of sunlight flashed above the sharp edge of the plateau that Mac Dugan realized he’d spent almost the whole damned night on the deck outside his bedroom.
Sitting in a hard, wooden Adirondack chair, freezing his ass off while the woman he loved and his best friend were curled up together in the big bed in the room behind him.
He imagined the two of them—snuggled warm and cozy in a tangle of twisted bedding—and didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at the visual. Dink, all long, well-formed male with a sexy mat of dark blond hair across his chest, washboard abs and a strong, sharply masculine face darkened with morning stubble.
And Zianne? Fluffy little gray squirrel.
Last time he looked, she’d had her tail curled around the top of Dink’s head and one tiny paw resting on his ear.
It wasn’t supposed to end like this.
He took a deep breath, pushed back his fear and the sharp burn of frustrated tears and focused on what they’d shared last night. Mac, Zianne and Dink, together again as they’d been so long ago. Zianne had held on to her human shape long enough for them to make love—the three of them connecting in a way they’d not been able to do since her abrupt disappearance so many years ago.
Twenty fucking years. Twenty years wondering if she still lived. Worrying whether or not all of his creative energies, every spare penny he’d been able to raise and the combined technological advances of the entire research and development team at Beyond Global Ventures would be enough to rescue Zianne and the few surviving members of her people from slavery.
Twenty years, sixty million dollars and a lifetime of focusing on an impossible rescue would all come down to the next thirty-six hours or so. Fewer than two days for Zianne to live or die, for the few remnants of the Nyrian people to survive.
They were so damned close to success, even as the entire project balanced on a razor’s edge of failure.
Shit. He hadn’t allowed himself to consider failure. How could he, and still work toward such an impossible goal? What fool would even attempt the rescue of a small group of alien slaves imprisoned aboard a space ship—held by another alien race preparing to plunder the earth of all its natural resources?
It sounded ridiculous no matter how he phrased it, so he did what he always tried to do when the fears surfaced. Mac pushed the negative thoughts out of his head. Refused to consider failure. Reminded himself failure was never an option.
Call it denial, call it what you will, but it was the only way he’d survived the past two decades. Focus on the desired outcome. Ignore the rest. Plan for everything that can possibly go wrong, and then put those plans aside and go with one that assured success.
Failure is not an option.
Clichéd, but still the only way to approach an impossible task. Expect success and go for it.
Mac sucked in a deep breath, centered himself, and locked away his fear. He consciously refocused his energy, squinting at the growing brilliance of the sun as it slanted across the huge array of satellite dishes. He studied them with pride, taking comfort in the fact they worked perfectly, that they had allowed his small team of young men and women to make telepathic contact with Zianne’s people.
People of pure energy, enslaved eons ago aboard the Gar vessel and forced to power the huge starcruiser now hiding in orbit behind the moon. Unwilling accomplices in the Gar’s plans to plunder Earth of all her riches. To take her mineral resources, her air and water—all that kept the planet alive.
The scope of the threat was beyond even Mac’s wildest imagination, and his imagination had no limits. The satellite array was proof of that—the fact it had worked so well, that it had allowed his people to contact the Nyrians from the very first day gave him hope that their plan—what there was of it—would succeed. Somehow they would rescue the captives.
Somehow, he would save Zianne’s life.
Mac shifted his attention to the square cinder-block building they’d labeled the dream shack. The small building was the center of operations for the entire project, the place where his telepathic team members would hook themselves up to the massive antennae and, via the satellite array, focus their sexual energy on the Nyrians.
And the Nyrians had already proved they knew how to work with such a powerful and compelling source of power. Mac had learned their secret from Zianne over two decades earlier, that the Nyrians, a people without a physical form of their own, could take on corporeal bodies through the power of sexual fantasy.
Could take those bodies and hold on to them, and, once they were able to retrieve their soulstones, they would be free of the Gar and able to make a new home here, on Earth.
If everything went according to plan. “Damn but that’s a big if.” Sighing, Mac rubbed his hand over his burning eyes. He’d not slept all night and today he would need to be sharp—on top of his game if he was going to be any help at all. He stared at the dream shack, watching as the sunlight brushed the glass dome on top of the building. That had been an act of whimsy—installing a skylight so that the team members could watch the sky as they projected their thoughts through space. They didn’t need to see the stars to know they were there, but from what feedback he’d gotten, all of them appreciated the view skyward.
He glanced at his wristwatch as the top half of the sun wavered above the dark edge of the plateau. It was barely six, which meant Finnegan O’Toole had a couple more hours to his shift.
Now there was a guy who’d proved first impressions weren’t always correct. Finn had come across as a class-A jerk—brilliant but still a jerk. Then he’d shown more character than Mac or any of the others had suspected when he’d volunteered to go aboard the Gar starcruiser to help with the rescue.
A brave and foolish request by a man who was no one’s fool.
What kind of man would willingly step into danger like that?
Kate’s Book Club is a column on Kate-book.com featuring interviews with authors named Kate, as well as reviews of books starring Kate characters. It runs on Kate-book.com every other Wednesday at 10:30am, and is written by the self-admitted bibliophile Kate E. Stephenson, who you should follow on Twitter here. Oh, and write to Kate to suggest authors and books we should read for future columns.