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This collection examines mostly dystopia and presents stories that are nuanced and accomplished in their settings and ideas.

Mark Le Dain’s Dreamtime is a collection of short stories which revolve almost solely on dystopian science fiction, and some contemporary fiction. Some of these stories are intertwined and examine the same technologies or characters, but this is not true for all of them. These narratives are well thought-out and focus on the present and future problems of social inequality, uber-neoliberalism, and technology and environment, going into specific dilemmas such as national debt, career opportunity inequality, etc. The topics are varied and cultivated and are mostly all written with a tone of suspense and perhaps horror.

The writing is simple and uncomplicated, which focuses the nuance of the stories on the ideas and character development rather than on the actual storytelling. One of the best features of this collection is that the worldbuilding is interesting and each setting is unique, and yet for each story the setting is not an indication to plot. An example of this is in the story “While We Dream”, in which the world population has surpassed liveable conditions and so half of the world is put into hibernation for periods of six months at a time while the remaining population keeps working. A relationship between two people on different hibernation periods would be enough to keep the story interesting and alive with plausible situations to explore, and yet this relationship is not the real interest of the story (the underlying idea is delivered with skillful dystopian suspense and horror). Some premises seem to be under surmise but the narration steers clear of any predictions.The original and ingenious settings of the stories are merely the pillars of this sci-fi collection, and not the point of them, as they commonly are for many science fiction works.        

A few stories are neither dystopia or utopia, and some subjects of discussion such as AI, the neoliberal social pressure to achieve financial success, competitive contribution to society, and reformed behaviors, are discussed through different perspectives in different stories, marking them as often self-reflective and reflective on society. Subjects, such as AI, which seem to be treated as part of a dystopia in one story is treated as beneficial in another, and so these stories do not explicitly convey a direct statement or take one side of a specific argument. The topic of markets, national debt, and capitalist state is directly addressed in several stories and these are always spoken of in the dark tones of a dystopian utilitarian society, and it seems fair to say that the resolutions and underlying premises of these stories carry a populist sentiment. Nevertheless, the stories leave space for discussion. A lot of them are not futuristic in themselves but build up on present problems, such as data tracking and accumulation (in “Ethics Score”), and merely expand on feasible outcomes or solutions. The collection commonly revolves around courts and trials, in which an individual acting within a system finds a suddenly outlet for discord and is judged according to society’s needs. 

These stories all have very abrupt endings. Directly explicit statements regarding plot or ideas regarding society are few and in general that works quite well, but there are a few stories which have too many loose ends and do not really contribute much in terms of solid content but instead serve to confuse, as ideas are introduced but not nearly developed. All the settings and ideas discussed are very good and acutely observative, but the loose ends of some stories wind up underwhelming the content, through writing which could have been edited and improved. Some example stories are “Thank You For Sharing” and “Boot Camp”. 

This collection is a true contribution to sci-fi, particularly dystopian literature, and a standout story is “Icarus”, which is quite simply excellent. This is a very high quality collection of fiction, and it does not fail to push the plot and exceptional settings as far as they can go. Mark Le Dain is quite clearly a very confident writer, very attentive to present social and political contexts and delivers smart, ingenious and yet credible projections. He also shies away from one-sided portrayals of complex situations. Dreamtime is recommended to all readers who enjoy quality fiction and clever content, even regardless of genre, and it is an asset to speculative literature.           

Reviewed by

Book editor, freelance content writer, and translator with a literature MA. I'm passionate about all kinds of literature and art. I enjoy editing, reading, and writing creative and informative content to the best of my abilities. Originality, insight, and entertainment are priorities for me. #Scifi


About the author

Mark Le Dain has a Bachelor of Commerce (Honors) from Queen’s University and completed an exchange at the Rouen School of Business in France. Mark currently works as Director, Strategy at an AI company and previously worked as an investment banker. view profile

Published on April 15, 2019

Published by EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy

60000 words

Genre: Science Fiction

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