If you are looking for an exciting, detailed, intricately woven science fiction novel, look no further than Dreamworms: The Advent of DreamTech (Future Notion Press) by Isaac PetrovA story told in layers of dreams within dreams, this first installment of an intended trilogy takes the reader on a mind-bending ride a la the movie Inception. And all of it happens in a pair of beautifully imagined future worlds.

The base year of the novel is 2515 and the focus character there is Ximena, a historian and Ph.D. candidate living in Goah’s Imperia of the Americas. She’s a student in a prestigious Global Program with people from around the world, studying under rock-star famous historian Keni Miyagi. At school, she meets people from across the globe, including Neanderthals, who in this world live and work side by side with humans. She attends classes in an accelerated-time dream state, the dream net, while in a type of stasis inside a piece of alien technology.  

Ximena’s class is studying an event from a century earlier, an era called the “second collapse,” when humanity almost went extinct. Although there was a global empire, life expectancy during that time had plummeted to less than 30 years.  Within their dream-class, the students watch a total-immersion dream movie of the life of Edda Van Dolah, the novel’s other focus character, who lived in Europe at the end of 2399 during this collapse. 

A SOCIETY WITH A DARK MANDATE

Edda’s world is one where strict social norms prevail. The heads of families are chaste brother-sister pairings who conceive children by other people outside of the family. These children carry on the family line in the same way. While this system has its advantages and most people seem quite happy, other aspects of society are much darker. Everyone is executed at age 27 for fear of a disease called Dem — which we soon come to realize is a form of early-onset dementia.

Edda is in denial about the recent death of her mother and the upcoming death of her father, and as a result, acts out against the rules of her society. This brings her to the attention of an alien race, who see her as having potential for greater purposes of their own design. The aliens make first contact and begin training her for a special role via yet another layer of dreaming — one that will eventually evolve into the technology Ximena is using to watch Edda learn. 

As the layers of stories unfold in both 2515 and 2399,  Ximena is startled and upset to discover that the history she was so confident she knew inside-out may not be as “true” and historically accurate as she was previously taught, mirroring Edda’s journey of conscience a century before.

The use of dream layers in the storytelling would be fraught with literary danger for a lesser writer, but Petrov does a masterful job of juggling all of them so that the reader is never confused about what is happening where or when. This is in itself impressive, but the author goes on to achieve even more: a richly imagined world with fascinating, unique family and societal structures, as well as new types of political and religious systems. 

Every detail appears to be meticulously thought out and mapped together, making it a satisfying escape from reality. Dreamworms is well worth a read for any science fiction fan looking for a new series to embark on. 

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Issac Petrov says that he’s a “true nerd, since way before it was cool (yeah, I’m that old).” He writes the kind of books that he himself would like to read, especially those in the genre of science fiction. Born in Spain and educated in law and economics, Petrov is currently settled in Amsterdam with his wife and young son. He makes his living as a software engineer.