Thursday, December 16, 2010

What Dreams May Come by Richard Matheson

What Dreams May Come by Richard Matheson is another of the Transformational Book Circle collection and I have to say that I am completely ambivalent about this novel.

For one thing, the editing in this book is so terrible that I can’t say with any certainty that my negative feelings are directed towards the content or the way it was treated. Trying to a read a book where paragraph breaks occasionally are misplaced as are periods and commas, where an I is not capitalized when used as a first person singular but is when it is the first letter in the middle of a sentence. The editing on this book is so bad I would almost think it is self-published. And every time I came across yet another crappy edit, I felt more frustrated with the whole process of reading the book.

Another problem is that the author clearly had an agenda–a message he wanted to communicate with his reader. Sometimes a novel can do this well. Typically, however, the novel comes off as contrived and occasionally trite. This one is not trite but it’s hard not to feel manipulated page-by-page as the characters proselytize a message about life after death.

Why not write a memoir? Or a non-fiction book? If you have an agenda, don’t insult your reader by cloaking it as fiction. If you want to teach a lesson, at least be honest in your intention. Sure, you can use stories or parables to drive home certain points but at least contextualize them in an honest framework. Otherwise it mostly comes off as disingenuous.

But the truth is, I simply can’t say if my frustration begins and ends with the editing and that how I feel about the novel itself is overshadowed by that or if I feel a disappointment that is solely the responsibility of the novel’s author. Of course, it could be that this book is one of those rare exceptions where the movie is actually better than the book. And I really like the movie so I am genuinely disappointed in this book.

As for the CD that accompanies this particular edition . . .

If you enjoyed the movie and want to hear some of the story behind how it eventually came to be made, then you will enjoy Stephen Simon's story about how he came to work with Robert Matheson (who wrote the novel that inspired Somewhere In Time) and the many obstacles Simon faced in trying to get this novel made into a film.  He never sinks the story into gossip but shares some personal experience and you get a sense of his deep passion and commitment to making literate films.  I know that both Somewhere in Time and What Dreams May Come are the type of films people either love or hate.


  1. i completely agree with this review.

    the movie is one of my top three favorite movies, so i was excited when my sister-in-law said that she had read the book and loved it.

    i was very disappointed by the proselytizing, annoyed with the editing, and just over all let down by the whole thing. my sister-in-law is a lovely person, so i didn't have the heart to tell her how much the book sucked-- the most that i could muster was that i preferred the movie. :-)

  2. Yeah. It was a disappointment.

    Once I finish the last few books in this Transformation Book Circle collection, I will write an overview of the whole idea and what I think went wrong. I mean, besides the really careless editing on the publisher's part.

    (I am going to read Matheson's I Am Legend before the year ends, out of curiosity. The review may not go live until January, however, depending on my timing and schedule.)

    I should compile a list of movies that are better than the book. There are so few of these out there that it wouldn't be a very long list but still might prove fun. For instance, The Princess Bride is definitely a better movie than it is a book. And Jaws as well.

  3. oh! i didn't realize matheson wrote "i am legend", too! huh. i knew the book existed, and was willing to read it because i did like the movie, but now i'm concerned... :-) i'll look out for your review.

  4. Well, apparently Matheson used to write for The Twilight Zone and is the genius behind some of the classic episodes we all know and love.

    He also wrote Somewhere in Time.

    There. Today's trivia. If you've learned something new, then you're done for today.