Dreamland by Tom Gilling

DATE FINISHED: July 28th, 2012 

RATED: ***

SYNOPSIS:  A seven year relationship has washed up to nothing, a career in journalism has been equally lacking in impetus. When Nick, against his better judgment, agrees to lie about a speeding ticket to get an old friend off the hook, he has no idea just how much the incident will change his so-so life. The speeding ticket turns into a fatal hit and run, and with no evidence of his innocence, Nick takes to the road and picks up a stranger’s identity en route.

THOUGHTS:  My main reason for picking up this book was the author – he wrote the wonderfully light historical novel Miles McGinty, and I hoped he might bring a similarly light touch to this mystery thriller, albeit set in contemporary Australia.  Sadly, Dreamland has none of its predecessor’s charm.  There is nothing wrong with the writing itself (although nothing stands out much about the writing, either), but the story putters along – various things happen but there is no real sense of motion, and certainly not very much suspense.

Along the way, a couple of moral conundrums are thrown into the mix – how many lies would or should you tell for a friend in trouble (or for yourself)?  And of course, the subject of identity crops up, given that Nick steals one (but what he could really do with picking up is a new personality).  Nick doesn’t fight any of the circumstances he finds himself in, and it’s all just a little bit too straightforward to feel one is expected to give too much consideration to the ‘issues’ very vagely raised.  It’s not a morally led story, but there really wasn’t that much story to it by the end, either.  My biggest feeling upon finishing it was that it really lacked both personality and plot, and the conclusion – after the action seemed to show some hint of hotting up a bit – limped away without any impact at all.

This was not a terrible book, it was simply harmless: light in entirely the wrong way.  This quote says it all:

…as Nick stood there in the witness box he couldn’t help feeling that this was a made-for-TV movie, that he’d stumbled by accident onto the set of a second-rate courtroom thriller.

FOLLOWING ON:  About the Author by John Colapinto, explores the nature of (stolen) identity while the protagonist inadvertently gets caught up in a murder/mystery/drugs plot, but is far more entertaining, darker, told with more ‘spirit’, and with a more satisfying conclusion.


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