I DREAM OF MIRRORS
by Chris Kelso
A book review by weird fantasy & speculative fiction author Ted Fauster
Why do mirrors exist?
I DREAM OF MIRRORS is the kind of novella best consumed with a picnic basket full of pharmaceuticals. Since this is both dangerous and illegal, I offer instead a comfy chair and a roaring fire. Perhaps a cold beer and a hammock? Cup of coffee and an Autumnal porch swing?
Doesn’t really matter. This is your dream, pal.
Kelso’s dream begins like your typical zombie apocalypse, with two heroes (Kurt and Kad) fighting off a mob of zombies as they race back through a desolate city with a bagful of fresh supplies toward the luxury apartment in which they’ve been squatting. Then everything goes full banana-nut-cake fucking weird.
The “city” has been taken over by one Miles Dunwoody, a charismatic cult leader type drawing everyone inexorably toward him with the promise of redemption and rescue from some unknown force that is coming to get you. Seems fairly straightforward. Once our duo reaches the safety of their honeymoon suite, however, the icing on the cake becomes smeared.
Kelso is cut from the same cloth as Burroughs, whose influence on this novella stands out in bold type. There’s even a bit of the cut-up process in here that makes it feel as if some scenes have been intentionally shuffled together then rapidly dealt blind. At times, you will feel like you are losing your grip on what you’re reading, which in my opinion is where this little book masterfully shines.
Much of the language is rich and poetic, a long burbling dream sequence full of misguided attempts at introspection, fear and self-doubt. (I kept imagining Jude Law as our humble narrator.) We see this weird world through the eyes of an unreliable narrator, and we don’t care. We know he’s disillusioned and lost and we love it!
Why is he here? Why does he exist? Is it time to throw in the towel and simply commit? To what? To Dunwoody? To a fluxing sense of self? To love?
That’s a whole lotta damn questions, and by the time you’ve finished the book you’ll likely have more.
This is a short read. I usually read very slowly, and I finished this book in just three sittings.
If you’re looking for your typical genre novel take a pass. This won’t make you feel all warm and giggly at the end. In fact, there are several points along the way that are so disturbing they’re difficult to surmount. This book gets dark–very dark.
If, however, you consider yourself a reader with a discerning palate, a connoisseur of the strange and unusual, then you’ve come to the right place. This is my first Kelso read, and I’m going to be snatching up everything else he’s written.