My wonderful former writing teacher Dale Gregory Anderson used to tell us that when it came to endings our job, as writers, was to land the plane safely. I think of this a lot whenever I’m reading fiction. As a reader I’ve had a tendency to be a dick to writers who gave me endings that displeased me. I like to believe I’ve become more forgiving, especially if I felt the plane was landed safely.
Unfortunately, Karen Thompson Walker did not land the plane safely in her new novel The Dreamers, which is a bummer. Up until the end, the book about a weird sleeping virus that strikes a small California town is an intriguing, compulsive read. We follow a bunch of loosely connected randos as they watch the town around them fall into these dream-filled, unending slumbers. It’s a little weird how complacent the town is about the virus, but I shrugged off this skepticism because I trust KTW and I was going to follow wherever she lead.
Unfortunately, she led me nowhere. The story just wanders around quietly with any tension quickly dissipated, until things peter out in an ending that made me think What? That’s a ripoff!