The Lucid Dreaming
Bad Moon Books, 2009
Lisa Morton’s The Lucid Dreaming won the 2009 Stoker Award for Best Long Fiction and is still available from Horror Mall in a signed/numbered limited edition trade for around 16.00. In addition to a great story you also get some wonderful art from artist Zach McCain. The Lucid Dreaming takes the best of “survival horror” from managing to invoke the humor of Zombieland, the destruction and devastation from The Stand, and the isolation from 28 Days Later’s stellar opening scene while maintaining a flair all of its own. Ashley, aka Spike, a Los Angeles native and schizophrenic has been committed after forgetting to taker medication. While at the state-run institution the young woman notes a strange increase in the population and not long after is surprised to find her door opened by her now seemingly crazy nurse and she is let out into a world, quite literally, gone mad.
At 90 pages the pacing of this novella is kept brisk. Spike is direct and no-nonsense when it comes to her narration; frank and unapologetic to both the reader and other characters met during her long strange trip. The horror elements are light and the atmosphere and tone of the novel remains surprisingly bright. Spike’s realist attitude is a breath of fresh air and she proves a surprisingly resourceful heroine. Much like in Stephen King’s The Mist, and in many other survival tales, the real threat emerges from other survivors. In the case of The Lucid Dreaming, that threat emerges from a ranch operated by an opportunistic woman called Mama. Without lingering too much on the atmosphere of oppression and inhumane treatment of other people (particularly women) Morton manages to only scratch the surface just enough to reveal the foul stench of humankind’s willingness to maim and kill one another in order to maintain a feeble and tenuous grip on power.
The narrative in The Lucid Dreaming is relayed to an unknown captive and, while the novella’s end offers a strong hint on precisely who that might be, it is something never revealed outright. The Lucid Dreaming is a self contained tale but one that hints at the possibility of more; which I fervently hope we will see. While $16 for a 90 page novella might sound like a bit much I think that the price was definitely worth the story, especially with McCain’s gorgeous black and white drawings scattered amongst the pages. This is really a great little story that I highly recommend fans of horror and particularly post-apocalyptic fiction take a look at. Thankfully there is a preview over on scribd so go due yourself a favor and take a look.