Reviewed by Stephanie Gunn
The Dreaming is the debut novel from Australia author David Pelletier. It was published by Dragonfall Press, an independent publisher of science fiction and fantasy based in Perth, Western Australia. Launched in 2010, the press aims to discover, publish and promote Australian and New Zealand authors of speculative fiction.
The book follows three young Indigenous siblings – Kevin, Alison and Jimmy, who are uprooted from their life with their father in outback Australia and moved to Perth to live with relatives. As the three children struggle to adapt to their new life, Alison finds herself drawn to the nearby national park and the darkness that dwells beneath that land. She is forced into confrontation with her own past as she fights to keep her brothers safe from the horrors both human and inhuman.
This debut novel could easily be mistaken for the work of a more accomplished author. There is a quiet dignity to Alison in particular, and while she is clearly part of a marginalised people, she possesses both strength and determination, and holds onto the ability to love and protect her own even in the face of some of the darkest of human nature.
Pelletier’s writing is vivid, drawing deeply on sensory input to imbue both characters and settings with true life. There is an over-reliance on florid language at the beginning of the book which detracts slightly from engagement with story and characters; one feels that this could have benefited from more editing.
The children, at times, feel more like miniaturised adults than children, which could be offputting for some readers. It is, of course, possible, that this was a deliberate choice on the part of the author, with the children being forced to become mature because of their circumstance.
There is a certain level of predictability to the plot, but such predictability doesn’t detract much from enjoyment of the book – the characters and settings are real and vivid enough to ensure that a reader remains fully engaged.
Overall, this is a very impressive debut from a promising author and independent press. The book is professionally produced and generally well edited. Pelletier is obviously an author who has deep respect for the people of this land and their spirituality, and his career is going to be one to watch.