The Dreamers: A Story of Sam Kullen
by Oliver Dahl

rated 6.9/10

Sam Kullen is a Dreamer. This means that he can control and influence events on earth in his dreams. But first, he has to save the Dream Realm from an evil villain who wants total control. (Are there any OTHER kinds of villains?) To save the Dream Realm, Sam must work together with the Dreamers, save some territories, fulfill his destiny, and, ultimately, save the world. This means he has to fight in arenas, battle on mountains, and even destroy enemy buildings. Malfix (the villain) must be stopped at all costs… and Sam is ready.

I first spotted this book on imgur: the author, Oliver Dahl, was promoting his self-published piece there, and pointed out that the Kindle edition was (at the time) available for free. So I dragged out my Amazon account, bought the book for $0, spent a few hours trying to work out how to read it in a functional eBook reader instead of the crapware that is Kindle for Android, and finally gave in and read.

For a first published book, not bad.

My opinion is probably appears lot more negative from the rating, mostly because of very little niggles, and lots of them. Dahl’s characterisation feels a bit weak, and his plot moved almost too fast to follow, while being so full of clichés that it was hard not to follow. Also, the book’s incessant habit of using, “it’s complicated,” to avoid explaining things began to irk me about half-way through.

While I definitely could relate to the character, I don’t know how much of that is because Sam Kullen, the protagonist, is written in the first person. Introducing Gabe as the plucky sidekick looked like an excellent idea, and you could almost be really waiting to see the interplay between Sam and Gabe—and yet he only appeared momentarily; in the ‘Dream Realm’, Flitch fills that role, almost so perfectly that I thought they were one and the same, until Gabe himself appears.

There are occasional slight contradictions in the plot, but they pale to insignificance compared to the plodding, winding descriptions that seem verbose to the point of illegibility. The Dream Realm is differentiable from reality by very little more than markers and endless streams of “it’s complicated.” The short chapters are incredibly unfulfilling; I don’t think I saw Kindle suggest a chapter would take longer than two minutes to read. I could only count three confrontations in the entire book, and suddenly the antagonist is defeated.

The grasp of emotion, too, wasn’t strong at all. The only time we really see any emotion on Sam’s part is in the last quarter of the book, and the way that the transfer of power happens was very weak and should have been fleshed out more. I suspect having a better idea of the powers would help: I had an inkling that Sam was incredibly powerful, possibly more powerful than anyone else in the Dream Realm. But it was only an inkling, and it wasn’t portrayed at all well.

Overall, I was dissatisfied. The book was too short to really enjoy. The Dreamer powers were always “too complicated” to explain, and the characters, while relatable, were too shallow to show any depth. It was only at the very end, in the Author’s Note, that I suddenly understood the reason for all the issues I had with the book: it was Dahl’s NaNoWriMo novel from 2010, and I had made many of the same mistakes, especially the word-padding descriptions, in my NaNovel.

So yes, having had my expectations lowered a notch there at the end of the book was a bigger let-down, but on the other hand, it bumped the book up a few points. I’m suitably impressed.