In Chrostowska’s alternately fun and stuffy dystopian novel (after Permission
), a sleeper cell of dreamers rises up against enforced wakefulness. An alternate present finds the authorities intent on maximizing productivity; Greater America deprives its citizens of dreams by a system of drugs and virtual realties called Comprehensive Illusion (CI). Early on, the unnamed narrator stumbles into Onirica, a rebel republic and state of mind where dreams can be had. Citizens of Onirica attempt to subvert CI by upsetting its “symbolic order of reality” and creating a “united dreamworld.” Guided by Chevauchet, Onirica’s ambassador, the narrator wanders ghostlike through the streets of a parallel Paris, inhabiting people’s dreams. “All should enjoy right of passage through the dreams and daydreams of others,” according to Chevauchet, “on condition that they abstained from meddling in them.” When Chevauchet dies, the narrator assumes his mantle and control of “Operation Dormitory,” harboring sleeping insurgents as the authorities close in. Chrostowska at times overstuffs this Calvino-esque fairy tale with literary and academic references, but she succeeds in making Onirica a rebel worth rooting for. Determined readers will revel in the sheer fecundity of ideas in this fiercely imaginative acid trip of an allegory. (Apr.)
Correction: An earlier version of this review misspelled the author's surname.