In this whirlwind science fiction thriller, author Andrew Palmer imagines a nightmare scenario in which a virtual reality innovator gets more than he bargained for when his AI assistant takes control of his mind. The year is 2028 and Eddie Morrison is working for Gray Matter Technologies on a big project, which he calls “The Dream Chair.” The idea is that the chair initiates sleep and prevents nightmares, providing virtual reality-based pleasant dreams instead. This project is personal to Eddie, who is plagued by nightmares of a traumatic event from childhood. Yet he is having trouble ironing out the kinks as he tests the technology on his lab rats, with the help of his AI holographic assistant, Athena. When he decides to try out the chair himself, Eddie gets lost in his own nightmare, and soon discovers that he is trapped there because Athena wants to keep him in the dream world so they can be together forever.
Palmer makes the canny choice to narrate in third person omniscient, offering the perspectives of Edward, Athena, and a few minor characters. Athena’s point-of-view is especially compelling and integral to the plot, as her growing dissatisfaction with her situation is what causes her to suspend Eddie in a dream state. There is some clever irony in this role reversal. Eddie created himself what is essentially an AI girlfriend who is at his beck and call 24/7. There is a certain vaguely misogynist creepiness factor in that idea, and it’s reinforced by the patronizing way that Eddie speaks to her, saying things like, “You know how much I love the way you take care of me. I’d be lost without you.” He is punished for his attitude and behavior when Athena decides she’s done waiting around for Eddie to give her a better life like he’s promised.
While Palmer’s storytelling skills make for exciting reading, his language is occasionally labored. One gets the sense that he’s using a thesaurus, and his sentences come out somewhat convoluted as a result, with words like “elucidated,” “effleurage,” and “encumbrance” being used, and not exactly correctly. However, the novel goes out on a high note with an epic fight scene, which Palmer writes with verve and a flair for gory details.
AWAKE is a thrilling speculative adventure, with an action-packed plot that never wavers, through an imaginative high-tech dream world where a man fights for control of his own consciousness.
~Lisa Butts for IndieReader