Lincoln’s Dreams by Connie Willis



Lincoln's Dreams Lincoln’s DreamsConnie Willis; Spectra 1992WorldCat

Jeff Johnston is a research assistant to a Civil War novelist. He can find most of the facts that Broun may need. Right now Broun is split between finishing his current novel based in Antietam and obsessing about a novel that will center around the dreams President Lincoln reported.

Jeff’s old college roommate, a psychiatrist, brings a patient to one of Broun’s cocktail parties. Annie starts talking to Jeff, describing her dreams. As Jeff listens, she appears to be describing details from Robert E. Lee’s life. She knows details an average American would not know, including the type of cat in Lee’s household. Annie leaves Richard’s care after he abuses her trust. She comes to Jeff. Jeff is determined to help her determine why she is having dreams about Robert E. Lee. He is able to use his work as her aid.

Soon Jeff is trapped in the craziness that surrounds his boss, Broun, and the seriousness of Annie’s dream troubles. He also is busy avoiding his old roommate who wants Annie to return.

I really like Connie Willis’ work. She (or an assistant) had to have put a lot of research into Lincoln’s Dreams for the historical facts (I’m assuming they are facts that are provable – that is the way she works.) It is fascinating the way she works Annie’s problem and Jeff’s life together so that the world of dreams and time travel is studied while at the same time the every day problems of weather, details, and finicky bosses intrude. She makes her science fiction novels current, possible, personable and believable.

In Lincoln’s Dreams the characters remain fairly flat, unfortunately, and the ending falls short. I was wanting more of an explanation or something. Instead, it seemed she told her main story, then had to take care of the characters, so we’ll just write them out this way. This one was written over 15 years ago, and Willis’ writing has matured since then. I wonder how she would handle this one now?

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