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The Master of Dreams

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This novel is a good one that I’ve read this year! The characters are so dynamic yet relatable. I loved the flow of the story. It held my attention the whole time.
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Hmmmm... this is a difficult book to review. On the one hand: the writing was good, the MC was snarky (almost always a plus), there were multiple worlds visited (another surefire point in its favor), the secondary and tertiary characters were engaging and fun and the world(s) building was solid. 

On the other hand: the answers sought after in the different worlds (like who was the Dream Master in each world) were easy to suss out. The antagonist was not only wimpy but obtuse to boot.  I loved the different incarnations of Lisa/Ilsa... The main questions (why all of this was happening to our protagonist and who exactly was Eddie Raven?) still remain unanswered leaving wiggle room for book #2. Even though we got to visit, and lucid dream through multiple worlds, the pacing felt a bit sluggish at times. 

Overall:

I enjoyed this light romp through multiple dream worlds a lot more than I thought I would after reading the first couple of chapters... so if you are floundering a bit, hang on, it gets better.

~ Enjoy 

*** I was given a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review ***
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The Master of Dreams is the first book in Mike Resnick's new crossworlds Dreamscape trilogy. Released 16th April 2019 by Penguin on their DAW imprint, it's 294 pages and available in hardcover, paperback, audio, and ebook formats.

The author has been one of my favorites for many years. He's amassed an enviable collection of SF's highest honors. He's undeniably a talented and prolific author who has really proven his competence over decades. I was surprised, therefore, when this book failed to draw me in.

There is a crossworlds speculative fiction trope where the protagonist is thrust into the action without really having any idea of how they fit into the grand scheme of things, what the rules are, where they are, or what's going on. Heinlein's Number of the Beast, Willett's Worldshaper, and others spring to mind. Obviously each author brings their own experiences and plots to the writing.This book sees protagonist Eddie Raven thrust into a crossworld manhunt with him as quarry. He doesn't understand what's happening, how he's jumping from one world to another, and he spends the entire book saying "I don't understand. I'm nothing special. I'm just a guy"!

I found the passive nature of jumping from one encounter to the next jarring and bewildering. I'm familiar enough with the author's mastery over the written word to assume that he's perfectly well aware that's the effect he's creating and that it's intentional. The worlds Eddie Raven jumps into are odd pastiches of old movies like Casablanca and The Wizard of Oz. Even the narrative bits set in Raven's 'prime world' have an odd/nostalgic vibe and could well be set in the 1950's America or earlier.

It took me several weeks to finish reading The Master of Dreams because I found myself restless and unengaged with the narrative. It's competently written, with flowing (if odd) dialogue. The characters are well written. There was just something which failed to draw me in.

It honestly comes down to a matter of trust. The author's works have been entertaining and engaging me for decades at this point and I will stick around and see how the series develops.

Three and a half stars. I've rounded up for the quality of the writing.
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The Master of Dreams is an intriguing and creative new entry into the fantasy realm. This book begins with an ordinary outing with a man, Eddie Raven, and his girlfriend, Lisa. Upon visiting a fortune teller, things go very, very strange. From there, we are thrown into a wild ride through fictional worlds (and some historical worlds) that aren't exactly as Eddie remembers them. As we float through these worlds, things seem to get crazier and crazier. 

On its surface, I wanted to love this book. It's a wild ride. It creatively twists common properties like Casablanca, the worlds of Oz or Wonderland into new things with an intruder (or two or three) in their midst. That said, it spent too long in one world and not long enough in another. And it seemed to get repetitive without actually providing any additional information. There's a bit in the middle where Eddie ends up back in his own world and I was hopeful for at least a few answers (I know it's the start of a series so I didn't expect all the answers). I didn't feel like I got any answers. I also had some problems with the main character and his relationship to women, specifically Lisa (and those that appear to be her but are not her). I'm not sure the main character actually respects her despite claiming to possibly love her. 

Overall, it's a quick, easy and mostly fun read. It's worth reading to see the twists in familiar things and the creative ways in which they are thrown together and interacted with. But it fell short for me.
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The Master of Dreams by Mike Resnick
Cover Artist: Dan Dos Santos
Review by Sam Lubell
DAW Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780756413842
Date: 16 April 2019	List Price $26.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info / 


Mike Resnick has been nominated for a Hugo Award thirty-seven times, more than any other writer, and has won it five times. He has edited anthologies and magazines and written an enormous number of collaborations. At 77, he is still actively writing and publishing. Resnick is known for his humorous tall tale Westerns transplanted into outer space with larger than life legends with names like the Widowmaker and the Soothsayer. But he also wrote the very serious, character-driven mundumugu (African witch doctor) stories that were collected into Kirinyaga: A Fable of Utopia.

The Master of Dreams is Resnick writing in comic mode with his tongue firmly in his cheek. In this novel modern-day Earthling Eddie Raven finds himself struggling to understand what is going on as he bounces from one distorted version of a famous fictional universe to another--visiting worlds based on Casablanca, The Wizard of Oz, King Arthur's Camelot, and Alice in Wonderland. The only really developed character, Eddie Raven, is amusingly cynical and snarky as he tries to understand what is going on and why all this weirdness is happening to him.

The book begins with Eddie window shopping with Lisa, described as a "lovely girl". Lisa mentions seeing The Wizard of Oz so many times that she knew every word, while Eddie says he saw Casablanca a hundred times. They visit a fortune teller who tells Lisa she will die in seconds and tells Eddie that he should know better than to come here. Then a gunman shoots Lisa and the fortuneteller, but a mysterious voice tells Eddie to flee. Yet, when Eddie checks the hospital, they only have records of the fortuneteller and another man, named Rofocale, who has been critically injured, although Rofocale can still communicate with Eddie as a disembodied voice. When the voice tells Eddie that his enemies have tracked him down to the hospital and that he needs to leave, Eddie finds that "suddenly, instinctively, without thinking, his hands made a mystic sign in the air and he recited words that made no sense to him".

Raven vanishes, only to appear in a version of Casablanca’s nightclub populated by fantasy figures like ogres, demons, and medusas, and playing music from Mars. Everyone there recognizes Raven as Eddie, the owner of Eddie's Place, and think his lack of memories is just the bar owner being drunk again. Eddie needs to acquire letters of transit before noon to leave Casablanca. Lisa is there too, thinking she is Ilsa (clearly playing the Ingrid Bergman role, although here it is as the wife of Paul Brffare, not Victor Laszlo). They too need letters of transit to get to Europa, which Eddie first thinks is Europe before being told it is a moon.

After some adventures in Casablanca, Eddie arrives in The Wizard of Oz, where Lisa is Dorothy and her companions are a tarnished metal robot, scarecrow, and a lion who seems to be a football mascot. In this universe, Raven is a Munchkin. They are walking to the Sapphire City to find the Wiz to answer their requests. The scarecrow, named Einstein, wants the brain of Throckmorton Billingsgate, the "greatest handicapper in the history of hippo racing". The robot wants to be governed by the Three Laws of Robotics instead of the current thirty-seven laws. Dorothy wants to go elsewhere. But more than one being in the group is not what s/he appears to be.

The novel falls into the category of hero seeks to understand why weird things keep happening to him. And since this is the first book in a trilogy, it only sets up the situation and reveals the existence of the mysterious Master of Dreams. So, readers' enjoyment of this book depends on their tolerance for unsubtle humor. I chuckled a few times reading the novel, but the humor was on a level of a Robert Asprin or Piers Anthony book, rather than a Terry Pratchett. Parodies of Camelot, Wonderland, and Oz are very common in fantasy and this book does not do anything unique or innovative with them.

This is the first book of a trilogy so it is possible that later volumes will have a payoff that makes this novel worth reading. I advise readers to wait and see. They can pass the time by reading some of Resnick’s Hugo nominated short stories, his Santiago books, his Oracle trilogy, or his Lucifer Jones books.
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I couldn't get into this book. I had trouble connecting with the main character from page one and couldn't get past it. The book has a very interesting premise, it just wasn't for me.
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Eddie Raven is in trouble and he really does not know why.  What he does know is that he needs to keep traveling.  This is a fun tale with a unsolved mystery at the heart.  Follow Eddie through worlds that look like books, movies, or history as he tries to get home.  The end leaves him poised for another adventure.
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I don’t think I’ve read this author before, but I decided to give this one a try. I am a little at a loss to explain how I felt about this book, and really to explain what it’s about. The book is well-written, is very whimsical, has interesting and unique characters, and a wild plot. I wasn’t dissatisfied with the book, nor did I not enjoy myself. The book was just a little different than I am used to. I think it was maybe more…whimsical than I normally read. However, I can’t say it was terrible because it wasn’t. The book was an adventure and I did enjoy reading it, but I don’t think this type of book is the type for me. 3 ½ stars rounded up to 4. I do recommend this book for those who like unusual plots. I was provided the e-book which I voluntarily reviewed.
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I was really looking forward to The Master of Dreams by Mike Resnick, but unfortunately it never quite clicked for me. Usually, I like fast-paced novels that just drop us right into the action, but here I ended up a bit more confused than anything. Also how Eddie talks through me for a bit of a loop as well - I half thought the novel was set 50-60 plus years ago (or that the character must be at least 60 years old) rather than the fact that it's set in the present and that Eddie's supposed to be a twenty-something. Anyway, I did enjoy that Eddie is a fan of classic movies and the variety of the places he visits - Camelot was easily my favorite. Overall, this series opener has a lot of potential (plus that awesome cover), but it just didn't quite work for me.
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This is the story of Eddie Raven, who is a regular dude shopping in Manhattan with his regular girlfriend Lisa when they decide to get their fortunes read. Suddenly, and inexplicably, they get shot at by a random gunman, with a stranger taking a bullet for Eddie, and the girlfriend and the fortune teller getting shot. Eddie rushes to the hospital to see if she survived only to learn that there was no woman reported, and no woman came in with the stranger and the fortune teller. Strange!

He soon finds himself in his nightclub in Casablanca, which is familiar to him, but also very strange. Lisa shows up with no recognition for him, and says her name is Ilsa (this is Casablanca after all – characters named after cars appear as well, only instead of Renault and Ferrari, we have Peugeot and Maserati). He does seem to recognize that it is his club, and he knows the names of several of the regulars and knows his way around. He’s tasked with finding some traveling papers in the club somewhere before noon or else he’s stuck there forever.

When he does find them, he finds himself in Oz, and after further adventures there with Dorothy and the gang, he finds himself in Camelot. All the while, the stranger who saved his life is talking in his head, telling him that the Master of Dreams is coming for him. Shenanigans are abound!

This was a pretty quick read. It’s easily consumed in a day if you stick with it, and it is fairly fast paced. I found it a bit confusing from time to time, as it can be very strange sometimes, as you can imagine. It doesn’t necessarily help that we’re just sort of dumped into this one with no real explanation of what’s going on, either. However, with that said, Eddie is also thrown into this world with no real clue what’s going on either, so there is that. We’re not the only ones who have no real idea what’s happening here. We find out the details as he does.

Sometimes Eddie made my eyes roll. For instance, the story begins with Eddie and Lisa shopping on 5th avenue in New York, but one of the first things Eddie does is lament that women don’t wear skirts anymore. This immediately made me assume that this book takes place in perhaps the 1960s, as this seems a very archaic thing for a modern 20-something to say, and isn’t the only time he uses language that seems old-fashioned for seemingly no reason whatsoever. But then suddenly we were talking about DVDs and tablets and I was like… oh… this takes place in the present…. well then, uh… uh. It honestly low-key made me wonder the entire time I was reading if he was secretly a time traveler from the 50s or something because it seemed really out of place for a modern day 20-something from New York.

So, I had a bit of a rocky start with it, as you can imagine, but I stuck with it, as the premise was interesting. And in the end, I’m not sorry that I stuck with it, because when Eddie made it to Camelot, I found myself liking the story more. I don’t know if it’s just that I’m a sucker for Arthurian stories or what, but Eddie-as-Mordred wandering through Camelot trying to make friends with the Knights of the Round Table and trying to find Guinevere had me more into the story than anything up to that point.

So, all told, it was a fast-paced romp through a few fictional worlds that gets better as it goes, but still has a few parts that made my eyes roll in it. I didn’t end up loving it, but I did end up liking it a lot more than I anticipated I would after the first few chapters.

Thanks to the author as well as Berkley via NetGalley for the review copy.
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"Opening a new fantasy trilogy from Hugo award winner Resnick, this novel offers an adventure through space and time as Eddie Raven tries to outrun the dark forces pursuing him.

Eddie Raven isn't quite sure what's happening to him - and he's in a race to find out before it kills him.

His adventures begin with a shooting in a very strange shop in Manhattan - but soon he finds himself the owner of a very familiar bar in Casablanca. By the time he adjusts to that reality, he's suddenly become one of several undersized people helping a young woman search for a wizard. And after confronting the wizard, he somehow finds himself in Camelot.

But as he rushes to solve the mystery of his many appearances, a larger threat looms. Because someone or something is stalking him through time and space with deadly intent...."

Sounds a bit like one of the Burt-centric episodes of Moonlighting... meaning I'm sold!
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This was one of the strangest books I've read in a VERY long time. And I mean that in the best way! I have no idea what the hell is going on, and I LOVE it! Keep it up Mike! You've got me hooked!
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