Anna Undreaming by Thomas Welsh
Anna is a student surviving the city, and she lives by a simple credo, “Never play their game; their game is always rigged.” For every man she has ever known, it’s a saying that has served her well.
Especially when Anna becomes lost to the dark heart of the city. She finds herself hunted by Dreamers--artists, both good and evil, who construct new worlds--within a complex community that threatens to undermine reality itself. When Anna learns that she's an Undreamer with powers she cannot yet comprehend, she must travel through their strange and treacherous creations to discover that there's as much beauty in life as there is darkness. As her existence spirals into wonder and danger, Anna must look deep within herself and face the horrors of her own past, to save her old world as well as her new one.
I was absolutely delighted to receive an advance copy of this to read and review. After noticing promotion for the book on social media, I had already made the decision to buy it, so being allowed the opportunity to devour this before anyone else was nothing short of delectable. And devour I did.
You couldn’t call this sci-fi, and it doesn’t even fit fully into dystopian. This is like nothing else I have ever read. Welsh takes everything you know and twists it into a world where reality doesn’t follow the rules we’re used to. The people who are truly in charge aren’t government or business types – they’re artists, and they can easily craft and dismantle what we see and experience. Anything fatal which happens in their dreamworlds (or, to use the correct term, their Hazes) is quickly written off in reality as something we can wrap our heads around; because wrapping our heads around what happens in a Haze is no mean feat.
To combat these Dreamers, Welsh gives us Anna, a strong female protagonist (always a winner in my book) with some serious flaws. She’s headstrong, she’s badass, but she also has issues she’s working through, and demons in her past. Hey, don’t we all? Doesn’t mean we can’t beat the shit out of very real, yet dreamed up monsters. Anna is brilliant, yet the journey we experience with her is even greater. She struggles to come to terms with her abilities, and what’s now expected of her. What she’s capable of is destructive, cruel, and gorgeous.
The world Welsh has created is mind-blowing. There’s a lot to learn, and it’s no easy ride, but by the time I was less than halfway through, I was fully engaged. I was only glad I already knew there was a sequel in the making, as I was loathe to reach the final page. We’re left considering Anna’s emotional journey, and the importance it’s had on the development of her abilities. I am ready for more.
Anna Undreaming will be released on 20 March, but the good news for you kids is that you can read the first three chapters here. My gift to you.
An altogether wonderful experience; I would urge fans of sci-fi and dystopian novels to try this. Just remember it doesn’t actually fit into either of those categories, and probably deserves a new genre to be invented in its honour.
Never play their game, their game is always rigged.