Drowning in the River of Dreams

In Our Dreams Awake

Co-creators John McGuire and Egg Embry Artists Edgar Salazar and Rolands Kalniņš. Letters and book design are by Alexander Lugo 

In Our Dreams Awake cover
In Our Dreams Awake cover

In Our Dreams Awake is an imaginative and often original book that brings the reader into strange worlds, worlds seemingly visited in dreams. Just what, if anything, is real and what belongs to the dreamworld is left open.

This is the first of four issues planned for this series and features two parallel stories, two different dreams, both very different. We meet a painter, Jason Byron. He lives in a what appears to be a typical mediaeval fantasy world. But there are some odd features that start to become apparent. His patron upon seeing the portrait of his daughter that Jason is creating states “I would have thought an outside shot to be more fitting of Alexandria’s beauty”. 

art by Edgar Salazar
Edgar Salazar illustrates the fantasy setting

The word ‘shot’ jars, it suggests photography, a technology you would not expect to find in such a setting. It soon becomes apparent that all manner of technologies exist and are suppressed in this society that is instead dominated by magic.

As Jason’s pursuit of technology moves towards a clash with the dominant sorcerers of his world, we shift into another dream. This time Jason is in a strange dystopian London, a city that has become flooded. As Joe Strummer sang “London is drowning, and I live by the river”.

The changed scene is made evident in multiple ways. Firstly the artist changes. The naturalistic, sunlit images of the first dream, illustrated by Edgar Salazar give way to a harsher, dark and rain-lashed neon lit world visualised by artist Rolands Kalniņš.

Sci-Fi setting illustrated by Rolands Kalniņš

Also immediately evident is the language. This world has its own patois – like A Clockwork Orange or Alan Moore’s brilliant Halo Jones. There is also an influence of China Mieville in the reimagined streets of London. I particularly liked the fact that one of the spoken obscenities of this world (the equivalent of a Mega City ‘drokk’) is ‘Keith’.

It can be difficult to pull off what amounts to a new language in a book, especially when shifting from a very different form of speech within the same story. At first this certainly is a bit overpowering and can come across as stilted. As the story progresses and the reader gains more familiarity with the subject this should be less of a problem.

In Our Dreams Awake - sci-fi cover.
In Our Dreams Awake – sci-fi cover.

Visually this second world has a bit more to work with and there are some great scenes as Jason, looking like a cross between Grant Morrison and John Constantine, has a punch up with a Fish Man. In multiple panels across a two page splash we follow the fists and head butts.

In Our Dreams Awake is a refreshingly ambitious book that demands the readers attention. The level of setup and exposition required for such a high concept idea is always going to be a challenge for a first issue but it is worth sticking around for. If you are in the mood for something different then don’t sleep on this one. It might just be keithing great! 

In Our Dreams Awake is funding on Kickstarter Now.

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