I wrote not too long ago about reading several short stories in the anthology Brave New Love: 13 Dystopian Tales of Desire. For what it’s worth, I think the title is a bit misleading because of the four stories I’ve read, none of them have been filled with desire, but that’s neither here nor there, because they have all been good stories.
I just finished The Dream Eater by Carrie Ryan. It was a really great read. I was sucked in and curious about the world she was creating from the first page.
Spoilers for the story are below!
The only negative I can express at all for the story was the fact that I didn’t know for the first several pages that the narrator was male. It’s written in first person, and for some reason – perhaps because the protagonists of all the other stories I’d read thus far in the anthology had been female – I assumed that I was reading about a female until the narrator mentioned stripping down to his boxers about three pages in to the story.
The rest of the story was rather marvellous and posed an age-old philosophical and moral problem: is the misery of one a worthy sacrifice for the happiness of many? And the many references of building one’s happiness on the foundation of another’s misery seemed incredibly apt to me in our current world atmosphere of inflamed bigotry, war on women’s bodies and rights, and desperate, terrified homophobia. Add to that corporate greed, often unacknowledged human slavery, and fortunes built on blood, and it seems apparent that there are many people who seem not only willing, but eager, to build their happiness on the foundation of another person’s misery.
At the end of the story, the Crux declares her love for the narrator, and I admit that some cynical part of me was willing to ignore the quaint set-up of childhood friends who had grown to love each other and ask myself, “Does the Crux do this to other people, too? Does she perhaps do this to everyone? Has she slowly seduced every person she takes memories from, taking what joy she can in their love for her? Or is it only Went?” I suspect the author intended it to be only Went that she has these feelings for, but I am intrigued by a more sinister/pathetic/desperate idea of her seducing emotionally many of the people she encounters during her nightly duties.
All in all, it was a very strong story, and I find that I can recommend this anthology whole-heartedly. Even if the rest of the stories that I’ve yet to read don’t pan out, between Diana Peterfreuend’s Foundlings and Carrie Ryan’s The Dream Eater, it was money well spent.