Thank you to Patchwork Press for providing me with an egalley of the book to review.
With some reluctance I add “The Dream Engine” to the list of books/galleys that I couldn’t finish. I decided to put it down at around 43% for a significant reason, which I thought was the biggest issue in the whole book: the story felt like it was going nowhere.
“The Dream Engine” offers some interesting insights and thoughts by proposing a concept where there is a divided world with only the bottom dwellers being the ones who can dream, then taking these ideas and “feeding” them to the citizens above who mistake these as having come from a machine called the Blunderbuss and build these creations. It took me some time to be able to put the plot into such a condensed and simplified version in my mind and even then I’m sure I must’ve missed or misunderstood something along the way. Clarity isn’t exactly the strength of the writing, and the world building, though complex and obviously thought through, shows signs of weakness with vague terms and things that seem somewhat ridiculous to comprehend. I found the story to be too far-fetched. Usually steampunk stories make some kind of sense, especially since they focus on the scientific and engineering aspects that are required for the genre and thus should have been researched. But “The Dream Engine” tries to blend some fantasy, in the form of “dream picking/harvesting”, as well as some post-apocalyptic details and even some spiritual elements. As a result, the book became a jumble that was difficult to follow along.
Eila’s thoughts tended to be scattered and repetitive, but at the same time remained logical. Her stubbornness was admirable even, which is a rare case with stories in which the main character finds out they’ve been living a lie. It was the repetitiveness that got to me. I couldn’t see where the story would be possibly going in the next half a book, nor did I particularly want to find out anymore. Besides Eila the other characters were vaguely introduced and didn’t provide much substance to work with that could possibly add to the story. Levi wasn’t as major in the half of the book that I did read, although the summary made it sound otherwise. Cora was easy to confuse with Eila in the beginning and only established her separate identity after disappearing for several chapters. Daw somehow struck me as a more civilized version of Haymitch from The Hunger Games. The cast, as a result, didn’t enhance the story much either, which was already difficult to read as it was.
The one thing that’s admirable about this book is how fast the authors wrote it. At the same time this very fact was what emphasized the weaker parts of the book. The premise had promise but I wasn’t too thrilled with the execution. There were ideas that could also have led to an internal debate for the reader on the whole idea of dreams and who is in charge of creating as well as the nature of ‘artistic freedom’. But it wasn’t given the chance to grow up to this point. As a result the book had too many shortcomings for me to continue with it. It had potential, but the pace and continued frustration during reading overshadowed the slight interest I had in continuing and finishing the book.