Review: This Shared Dream

Posted: December 7, 2011 by in Books that are Mediocre (3/5 single_star) Meta: Kathleen Ann Goonan, Urban Fantasy

Siblings Jill, Megan, and Brian were orphaned while in their youth—but now as adults they still don’t know what really happened, since their parents simply disappeared. It turns out that their parents had something to do with the development of Q, a sort of world network of education and communication, and its later incarnation: the Device, the machine that will change the world.

But someone wants the Device for their own use, and Jill and her family are in danger.

THIS SHARED DREAM by Kathleen Ann Goonan (Amazon) is the sequel to IN WAR TIMES (Amazon), but having not read the first book, I think I went into THIS SHARED DREAM lacking some key information and connection with the characters. In a desire to be up-front, you need to know that even though this book is well written and thought out, it took me weeks to trudge through–it just didn’t appeal to me personally, so read this review with that in mind.

The story begins several years after the first. Goonan packs the first handful of chapters with enough characterization and backstory to keep new readers from getting lost. However, it does mean there’s not a whole lot of action.

Fortunately it’s the characters who make up for this lack of a quicker pace. Jill, Megan, and Brian are all complex people, with a believable relationship with each other as siblings, as well as with their spouses and children. At times the connections they feel with each other and with their parents Bette and Sam are poignant. I admit I’m rarely touched by character inter-relationships as much as I was in THIS SHARED DREAM.

The story revolves around time travel. Bette, Sam, and their friend Eliani Hadntz want to stop war for all time, but it means changing events that would have happened—such as the assassination of JFK—and as a result the timeline we know is much, much different. They use the Device in order to move around in time and know what events to change. Bette and Sam travel timestreams as though they’re everyday vehicles, and not some abstract concept. Goonan does the best she can explaining how they move in time, but there’s only only so much she can do without making my brain warp from the details.

If you enjoy the concepts of time travel and developing utopias, then THIS SHARED DREAM is full of what you're looking for. Less so if you like action.

As a result THIS SHARED DREAM is really a concept story. Goonan’s prose is subtle, but it’s clear even from the beginning that this is about the steps Hadntz is willing to take in order to create a new world, a world without war—a utopia. Her altruism leads her to attempt to change human nature itself via social engineering. Unfortunately, in this novel she’s a rather mysterious creature, and rarely makes an appearance (perhaps we see more of her in IN WAR TIMES?). It’s via Bette, Megan, and especially Jill that Hadntz achieves the results she wants. They make a pretty convincing case that their motives are pure. I still wonder, however.

In the end, I’m simply the kind of girl who reads books for the plot and action–and while this book has a definite story, it’s so deliberate and pedantic that I had little motivation to pick it up again between chapters. If you enjoy the concepts of time travel and developing utopias, then this book is full of what you’re looking for. If you want quick-paced, lighter time-travel fare without overt agendas, try parsing through EBR’s library of Connie Willis stories instead.

  • Recommended Age: 16+ more for reading comprehension than content
  • Language: Fewer than five instances
  • Violence: Referenced, but nothing detailed, and even then infrequent
  • Sex: Rape is referenced

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