Halcyon Dreamworlds, by Lee Baldwin: a Review

Imagine a world not too distant from our own, where the current research into neurological bridging between human minds and computers has become a reality….a two-way reality. The entertainment-industrial complex, run by the rich elite of the world, sees the potential for complete mind control, bringing the mass of workers into line through implanting ideas and reactions into the brains of all participants in the virtual reality game Halcyon Dreamworlds, through the simulation’s neurological controller. As Halcyon Dreamworlds is already the escapist alternative to the drudgery of daily life for many, if not most, of the population, there seems little to stand in the way of this plan.

Logan Fischer, big-box-store drudge with a past marked by failures she’d like to forget, is one of those whose alternative life in Halcyon Dreamworlds is more appealing to her than her reality. She is nearly swept away entirely into the glittering, decadent sexuality of the simulations, until her one trusted friend and family member is found dead…and the cause may be the neurological bridge, the ‘spider’, that links his brain directly with the computer program. Devastated by this loss, Logan finds herself being drawn deeper and deeper into the converging worlds of the police investigation and the lives of the elite who control Halcyon Dreamworlds, and who count no cost too great in their bid for world domination.

Fast-paced and complex, Halcyon Dreamworlds is believable science fiction, raising questions about technology that are relevant and challenging. Author Lee Baldwin’s background as a human interface designer in Silicon Valley no doubt adds to the veracity of the technology and its potential. The political issues in the background of the novel are the political issues of today, if more extreme, also adding to the sense of possible reality. There are no huge dystopic events here, only the expansion of climate change, the decline of the middle class, and an increasing isolationism in the West.

Baldwin uses language effectively, with a flair for description and dialogue. Characters are complex, with the main characters presented as more than stock figures, and in the case of the protagonist Logan, with a back-story which shapes her actions.

If I have one niggle it was the novel’s pacing, which I found to be a bit uneven, not quite hitting the right balance for me between world-building and narrative action. Production quality was good; I noted one mis-placed comma in the Kindle version I read. Overall, 4 stars for a thoroughly entertaining and thought-provoking story.

The author provided me with a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

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