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Sunday, January 2, 2011

Book Review: Don't Fall Asleep: A Dream Assassin Novel by Laura Eno

It's hard to write, finish, and revise a book, and it takes courage and money to get it out there if the author wants to self-publish. Readers who are interested in self-published books but who don't want to waste their time on low-quality ones need a place to go for reviews. I'll post a review of a self-published book the first weekend of every month so that authors and readers can connect with each other. I'm also going to try and get author interviews so that readers can meet the people behind the books. At first, reviews and interviews will be posted separately due to time constraints.

A disclaimer: I'm going to start with books by authors I know through real-life connections and through Twitter. If you're interested in getting your book reviewed and are willing to be interviewed by an otherworldly catfish, please email my assistant at bert{at}ceciliadominic.com or follow Bert on Twitter and message him there.


Title: Don't Fall Aslep: A Dream Assassin Novel
Author: Laura Eno
Genre: Science Fiction (Character-Driven)

As the main character observes in the movie Shrek, ogres have layers. In Laura Eno's book Don't Fall Asleep: A Dream Assassin Novel, so do people and cities. Cassandra Dade lives in a mansion perched on a cliff and considers herself to be outside of society because of her rough upbringing and her unique talent: she can go into people's dreams and assassinate them. Nathan Wilder weaves dreams for others. Cassandra sees in him a potential partner, and he perceives her as an opportunity to escape from his past and finally solve the mystery closest to his heart.

At this point, Eno could have gone with a typical master/rookie scenario with romantic elements, but she demonstrates that this plot won't be so predictable: Nathan Wilder is gay, so any relationship between him and Cassandra will be platonic. She also warns him that vengeance is not the reason to become a Dream Assassin, and he agrees with her to a point, but he wants to find out who assassinated his lover Jeremy DuPree. Both characters have layers of personality and secrets that they gradually reveal to each other and the reader, and Cassandra finds she has to be uncomfortably vulnerable with Nathan to help her battle a foe from her past and keep her sanity.

One of the great pleasures of this story is the world that Eno has built. Altair IV sounds like a beautiful place, although it is far from idyllic, and it reflects one of the themes of the novel: appearances are deceiving. Although the genre is character-driven science fiction, the setting and its vagaries become a character in itself. The capital of Altair IV, simply known as The City to its residents, has developed into a stratified society with The Street at its base, The Halfs in the middle ("Because if you live in them, you're either halfway on your rise to the top, or halfway on your fall to the bottom…"), and Topside, which is where the rich and influential make their homes in climate-controlled domes.

The two Dream Assassins find unique challenges at every level as they search for answers as to who is hunting them. Being able to see past external features and to the heart of a person's "essence" is what sets Cassandra and Nathan apart from others, but also why they become targets of a powerful person, known only to them as "Dunbar." The plot becomes convoluted at times, particularly in the middle when two unfortunate residents of the Halfs are killed, and it seems that the author leaves threads dangling and forgets to tie them up at the end. For example, the murderer is killed, but it's never explained by whom or why, although I came up with a guess after reading the novel for the second time.

My other complaint is that the formatting is strange for a print book. The text is blocked as though it's from online content, with no indentation and a blank space between paragraphs (like this blog). I found it jarring at first, although the story quickly drew me in, and I forgot about it. Chapters always start on an odd page, which leaves even pages blank if the previous chapter ended on one. It's not traditional formatting and may turn off potential readers. On the other hand, it's really good for taking notes.

I enjoyed Don't Fall Asleep and look forward to Eno's follow-up, which should be out early this year. Meanwhile, I'll be reading her hysterical webserial starring Death and Chronos on The Penny Dreadful website.

Don't Fall Aslep: A Dream Assassin Novel is available at Amazon for $9.95 for the paperback and $1.99 for the Kindle.

Previous Reviews:
Donna Carrick's The First Excellence -- Fa-Ling's Map
Kenn Allen's The Golden Cockerel

Up Next in February: James Huskins' Silent Scream

13 comments:

  1. Thank you for such an insightful review into my characters, Cecilia! As for the formatting...the block text is my own particular foible. I've always disliked indents, although the Kindle version has them. :)

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  2. I loved "Don't Fall Asleep" Cecilia for most of the reasons you cited. The book isn't a genre I normally read, but I was drawn in right away. I thought the characters and setting were drawn well and that the reader is certainly given their money's worth with this book.

    Laura has a great talent for world weaving. The only "complaint" I had with the book is I'd have liked it to be longer so I could savor her talents even more.

    There are a lot of less than polished works being self published right now. This book is polished and well crafted. I think having sites like yours say that in a non biased way will let the cream of the crop rise to the top.

    Thanks for the review.
    Karen :0)

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  3. I know Laura fairly well (though I've never met her - funny how that works), and think this sounds like a great read. Thanks for the review.

    I would like to thank you for doing reviews of self-published authors. I think unbiased honest reviews are the only way to take the fear out of the selection process for readers. Kudos to you.
    ~jon

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  4. Karen and Jon - Thank you both for the wonderful comments! I agree with you - with more sites like Cecilia's giving unbiased reviews of self-published works, readers and authors will benefit.

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  5. This sounds like another book that I'd love. I really enjoy how Laura Eno creates such fully formed worlds.

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  6. Laura, thanks for the feedback and the formatting explanation. I'm glad you found the review to be insightful. That will be $185 for the character assessment, please. ;)

    Karen and Jon, thank you both for stopping by and for your comments! I was reading in the RWA newsletter that over a million books were self-pubbed in 2009 (I think that's the figure). There's a lot of stuff to wade through, and I want to make it easy to find the good stuff.

    Sheila, the world-building in Don't Fall Asleep is fantastic!

    So, Laura, about that sequel... :)

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  7. Sheila - Thanks for the awesome words!

    Cecilia - About the $185...will you take virtual cookies instead? ;) The sequel is yours...

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  8. I'm ordering the book for our library today. I should know in a couple weeks if they accept or reject it. My book was checked out 22 times during the past 12 months, so the library is a great place for exposure.

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  9. Thanks, Stephen! You are an ace at promotion!

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  10. Haven't read it yet...but will after learning more about it. Thanks for the review!Sylvia Dickey Smith

    A War of Her Own

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  11. Thanks for stopping by, Sylvia!

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  12. Terrific review and I'm looking forward to reading this one.

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  13. Thanks for stopping by, Genevieve!

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