Dream London by Tony Ballantyne


Paranormal SuspenseScience FictionDream London by Tony BallantyneAfter being discharged from the army, Captain Jim Wedderburn returned from Afghanistan to London. Then London started changing. Each morning, the city is a little different than it was the night before, often regressing in time as well as spatial changes. Now, a year later, the tube stations have disappeared. Electric trains are colored and lead all around the city – but never out of it. Any caught in Dream London is stuck there.

Now Captain Jim runs a brothel because there are few jobs a woman is allowed to do. He treats his girls well and gives them candy daily. People can get written fortunes that tell the future accurately. Racial sterotypes become the norm. The numbering system is all screwed up. The City (financial district) is getting tighter and taller. The parks disappear. When a person loses a job, that person ends up in the workhouse quickly because debts are called in immediately.

An American CIA agent sneaks into Dream London and recruits Captain Jim to help overthrow whoever is distorting London. Soon Jim is caught up between the CIA, the Cartel, the Daddio who is trying to take over, and whoever is in the City trying to keep the changes happening to Dream London. Jim isn’t a hero and doesn’t know how he got in this deadly position.

Tony Ballantyne uses his macabre imagination in Dream London. I went from great anticipation of the book (because of who recommended it) to puzzlement to confusion to hate back to confusion, and finally enjoying the end as much as was possible after the other reactions. The strong language, though fitting for the population types involved, is annoyingly graphic.

Dream London is told in Captain Jim’s first person narrative, which makes his character an anti-hero type. He thinks he’s a good guy, but by the end of the book he has reexamined himself and has come up with some very uncomfortable conclusions.

The physical city keeps changing. Streets meander around to new places – if they don’t disappear completely. The Thames and surrounding rivers change size. Angel Tower in the middle of the city, keeps growing taller. It’s over 1000 stories tall now. Rooms tend to get narrower and taller. People look out for themselves as they are more threatened by others.

The rest of the world stays the same. Parliament has moved up north, trying to maintain some control over the rest of England. The other countries of the world are worried about the effect London is having. There is talk of destroying the city with nuclear bombs if needed. Whatever is happening inside Dream London can’t be allowed to spread.

I know many an urban fantasy (or is this science fiction?) reader will love Ballantyne’s story. I couldn’t. It’s too dark. The violence is not graphic on the page, but allusions to violence (and rape) off the page are too easy to visualize. Again, the strong language is over the top. If the f-bomb doesn’t appear at least once (usually more) on a page, it’s unusual, especially in the neighborhoods where Captain Jim frequents.

At the same time, I was able to finish Dream London. The last quarter brings everything together to let the reader know that everything will be brought back in line.

Notice: Non-graphic violence, Strong language, Suggestive dialogue or situations

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