“And a woman floating outside of time looks to the future and the past for answers to what can save humanity.” – When I read this line, I didn’t immediately think about Slaughterhouse Five. If I had made the Slaughterhouse Five/Billy Pilgrim connection, I would probably have ran screaming in the other direction. A Vonnegut fan I am most decidedly not, and Slaughterhouse Five in particular is one of those books that makes my lip curl in disgust when I think about it. But I didn’t make the connection in the synopsis of Agents of Dreamland, so I committed to reading the book.
I can acknowledge that my issues with this book fall under personal taste rather than just bad writing. First off is the prose. I don’t know if this is a trademark of Kiernan’s writing (and if it is she’ll be an author I avoid in the future), but Sweet Baby Cthulhu, Agents of Dreamland is overflowing with metaphors and similes. I don’t mind the occasional one here and there, but there’s definitely a line I draw in the sand. Upon further reflection, it was probably deliberately done to add to the sense of unreality given to you from the plot itself, but it was just outright boring after about four pages in.
There were elements of the novel that I did like. The idea behind the novel itself – of spores of an alien civilization seeding itself upon the earth – was a fun one. I’d like to see a fleshed out version of this plot written with a bit of a blunter pen and more fitted into the sci-fi horror or sci-fi thriller categories. Obviously, the Lovecraftian references delighted me. (The ones that I caught, at least. I’m sure there were some I didn’t get.) There was a snippet of a poem from Lovecraft that she shares near the end of the book that was truly beautiful. I have the full poem marked for reading later. And I did like the connections she made across the ages to add a bit of depth to the story.
However, Kiernan has an interesting mind. That cannot be denied. And there were portions of Agents of Dreamland that did make me think. She also makes some interesting (and apt) observations about humanity. And there was one element in the story that I’ve never seen appear in another science fiction novel, so the uniqueness was appreciated. I just need a little more oomph than ooh la la when it comes to my stories, please.