Early on in Tricia Sullivan’s twisty, pacey Sweet Dreams, our heroine Charlie describes her job as a mix between Inception and Secret Diary Of A Call Girl. Of course, that’s the best-case scenario for the narcoleptic dream hacker, as events soon spiral out of her control and into distinctly more nightmarish territory.
It’s 2022, and Charlie has developed the ability to wander into people’s dreams after participating in an experiment run by mega-corporation Big Sky. The side-effect is the aforementioned narcolepsy, but she’s earning a crust helping people overcome their nightmares and business is on the rise. Until, that is, a masked figure appears in one of her client’s dreams and murders her. Is there someone else like Charlie out there? Someone with a very different agenda?
Following her brilliantly inventive Occupy Me, Sullivan takes a slightly more straightforward thriller approach here but it’s no less rich in ideas. Her near-future London is a just a couple of technological advances away: ear-pieces wiring apps straight into the subconscious are the main difference between the novel’s housing crisis-ridden metropolis and ours, and the police struggle to keep up with the possibilities that these new breakthroughs open up.
Charlie is great company and capable, determined and complex while being plausibly overwhelmed by the increasingly dangerous and far-reaching plot. Sullivan also delivers a great selection of engaging supporting characters, with Charlie’s boss/landlady/friend O and problematically well-endowed ex-boyfriend Antonio particular highlights.
Sweet Dreams is a gripping and frequently scary mystery with great characters that manages to stay one step ahead of the reader, and it’s both grounded and bursting with ideas. You’ll race through it and be sorry when it’s over.