Monday, September 25, 2017


Back in 2010, there was a moment when I walked out of the cinema after seeing Inception, and I thought - "That would make a great roleplaying game." Seven years later, I'm still working on that game - WILD. An RPG of "dreamsharing". I've always been fascinated by dreams, ever since having the crap scared out of me with the first Nightmare on Elm St, so that moment when I decided to stop dreaming about a dreamshare game and actually write one, I started devouring everything that would help to inspire, entertain and inform.

Readers here on my blog have followed the development of WILD (short for Wake Initiated Lucid Dreaming), how I've been writing the game, working on the game system, and changing and developing it over the years. Hell, you just have to click the WILD RPG button at the top of the blog and you'll get all the posts filtered for you. Even when I've been working on other things, it's been burning away at the back of my mind.

So much so, that when I thought foolishly that I'd join my wife's yearly crusade for NaNoWriMo, I wrote a novel in November 2012 - tentatively titled "Into the WILD". The novel served as a work of fiction aimed at teens, that could be read alone (it was the first of a trilogy) or as the backstory and background to the roleplaying game - explaining why and how the dreamsharing technology came into existence.

It followed a tech developer's teenage daughter who slips into a coma. We follow the story mostly from her point of view, trapped in her dreams, while her father develops the dreamshare tech hoping to go into her dreamscape and help guide her out and to wakefulness.

It was okay, but needed a hell of a lot of work doing to it. But I finished something (for once) and the following NaNoWriMo I decided I'd either work on the sequel, or the rewrite.

[Don't worry, I'll get to the point soon...]

Time passed, but I always kept an eye open for movies, series and books about dreams to keep my mind in the right place while was working on the game.
Cover of Dreamfall - Amy Plum
(Though this doesn't capture the rather lovely spot-gloss waves of distortion)

Earlier this year, I discovered a book called "Dreamfall" by Amy Plum. It had been released in the States to great acclaim, and had already been optioned for a TV series by the people behind the Scream TV series (which is really good!). I read the description of the book and I was a bit worried...

Seven teenagers who suffer from debilitating insomnia agree to take part in an experimental new procedure to cure it because they think it can’t get any worse. But they couldn’t be more wrong. When the lab equipment malfunctions, the patients are plunged into a terrifying dreamworld where their worst nightmares have come to life—and they have no memory of how they got there. Hunted by monsters from their darkest imaginations and tormented by secrets they’d rather keep buried, these seven strangers will be forced to band together to face their biggest fears. And if they can’t find a way to defeat their dreams, they will never wake up.
-text from Amazon

Crikey! Sounds a bit like what I'd been working on.

Getting to the point, the book came out in the UK a couple of weeks ago and I picked up a copy from my local bookstore to see what it was like.

First of all, it's nothing like what I've been working on, so that was a relief. Secondly, it's actually really good!

As the Amazon blurb says the story revolves around seven teenagers who are hooked up to a machine in a research lab for an experimental cure for their insomnia/night terrors. After a freak accident, they're trapped in a cycle where they are trapped in one of the seven kids' most horrific nightmares, and if they survive they can recover and rest (and their wounds are healed if they've survived) in a "void" like loading space, before being thrust into the next nightmare.

The nightmares are horrifically familiar, playing on everyone's worst fears and making them even more harrowing. I must admit, for a teen title I wasn't expecting to feel quite so palm-sweatingly tense while reading it. I mean, I'm in my late forties. I shouldn't be wigged out (for want of a better term) while mentally egging the characters on to escape.

Another confession is that I normally don't like books in present tense. Maybe it's just old-fashioned of me, but I can find it a little off-putting. And, this is told in first person from three different perspectives - Cata and Fergus (two of the teens trapped in the "dreamfall" as they call it), and Jaime (a med student sitting in on the experimental procedure, often noticing details the doctors behind this process are missing in their panic). Thankfully, the writing is excellent and you can tell the characters apart - their voices feel different - and the present tense gives the nightmare sequences a real sense of urgency.

There are some excellent plot-twists - one of which I saw coming, but it distracted me from the other couple of twists so well that I was genuinely surprised.

As I mentioned in previous posts, I've had real trouble concentrating at the moment. Stress being the major factor, I've found it really difficult to finish books, or sit through any movie that's less that utterly gripping.

Dreamfall, I read in its entirety in three days, which is a great testament.


In summary, it's great. Loved it. A fast paced, gripping read with some seriously scary moments. Thankfully it is very different from what I had been working on, so I can breathe a sigh of relief.

My only complaint? It really finishes with a bit of a cliffhanger, and we have to wait until May 2018 for Neverwake to finish the story. I don't know if I can wait that long!

You can find more info about Amy Plum on her website here.

And you can find Dreamfall in bookshops (preferable) or on Amazon or Waterstones.


Maybe I should get back to that novel for this year's NaNoWriMo?

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