Literary Review: W. A. Harbinson - Dream Maker

Paperback Cover - Dream Maker

W. A. Harbinson

Dream Maker

First published by Orbit Books, a Division of Macdonald & Co (Publishers) Ltd., London & Sydney, 1991

ISBN: 0747405425

Available from second-hand sources inc. online

Date Reviewed:


Dream Maker

Going by the descriptions and brief reviews I have encountered on the web, bestselling author W. A. Harbinson's 1991 novel Dream Maker is a much maligned work and, as it turned out, its plot is usually completely misrepresented. Having recently had the opportunity to catch up with Dream Maker - one of the author's works that I sadly missed so far - it was obvious to me that there was a need to rectify this state of affairs with a retrospective review. Although first published in 1991 and out of print, Dream Maker is easily obtained on the second-hand market. However, I would suggest avoiding the hardback edition as this is missing a substantial chunk of the story.

The basic premise of W. A. Harbinson's Dream Maker is vividly imaginative. The hole in Earth's ozone layer over the Antarctic, still expanding at the time, has provided a suitable environment for an alien life form. This life form keeps further expanding the hole in the ozone layer in order to grow and make the planet's environment more suitable for its needs. As it grows, global warming becomes catastrophic and turns large parts of the world into wastelands, including America's mid-west breadbasket. Not only that, but the life form also seems to "feed" off people's unconscious minds, in the process creating manifestations - or perhaps mass hallucinations? - of people's unconscious preoccupations such as UFOs and other people, both dead and alive.

A pretty frightening premise, and one just about conceivable to the vivid imagination. The plot itself revolves around the discovery of this situation and its surmised cause, the reluctance of government (in this case, particularly of the U.S.) to accept this, and the quest to defeat the awesome foe and ensure the survival of mankind. The solution is perhaps where Harbinson is on the thinnest ground in Dream Maker, but suspend credulity, as indeed one often must in literature, and it works.

Only a master story-teller of Harbinson's calibre could in fact pull this story off. Fantastical and inventive, there are also some frighteningly realistic scenarios and sub-plots in Dream Maker. Particularly impressive, and scary, is Harbinson's treatment and description of the complete breakdown of society and its descent into lawlessness in the American mid-west when the land turns into a dust bowl, leaving rural populations utterly dispossessed. The veneer of civilisation in modern western man is very thin indeed, and Harbinson is well aware of this and portrays its stripping off beautifully realistically.

Forget the alien life form and the hole in the ozone layer for a moment and just concentrate on climate change and Harbinson's Dream Maker will yet almost certainly prove prophetic in respect of the breakdown of "civilisation" and society, even if he is not entirely alone in this.

While perhaps not in the top ranks of his works such as Deadlines, Knock, and the like, W. A. Harbinson's Dream Maker is nevertheless a very compelling and gripping read. Coming from as vivid an imagination as that of Harbinson, it makes perhaps heavy demands on the imagination of the reader as well. But isn't that what the art of writing - and indeed reading - is all about, engaging the reader's imagination?

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