Dream Assassin by Barry Sykes

Tell us what you thought of the August 2009 issue

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Post August 16, 2009, 09:07:27 AM

Dream Assassin by Barry Sykes

This is reminiscent of the flick Dreamscape and holds a lot of promise, although I think, overall, the piece requires more development, a sharper attention to details. Just a few observations/questions:

Description of the facility that Morgan is being held in is scant.

It's not clear how old Morgan is or what she looks like.

Her character development strikes me as uneven; eg, she unequivocally, and contra Mather, says that the world beyond the rift is real, but then when the sh!t hits the fan, she thinks, This isn't real... This is all in your mind. Remember what Agent Mather told you. Nothing here can hurt you. It's all an illusion. I figured her to be stronger than that and way more comfortable in the dream world as she's been experiencing it her whole life, right?

How long has she been in the facility, what kind of training did she undergo, and how was she "recruited"?

Agent Mather could use some fleshing out. How old is he, what's he look like, does he wear the same rumpled suit or something casual? He's Morgan's handler, I guess, but what is his level of expertise on dreams?

Ditto on Dr Shama. There's an effort to make him sympathetic, but not much else to sink the reader's teeth into.

Given that the threat of not seeing her mother again is enough to force Morgan to accept the mission, I'd like to see the family relationship better developed. And I think the father needs to be introduced earlier in the story to set up his appearance during the climax.

Further, I think we need a reason why Morgan has to hit this target the next morning. It seems that Morgan could find her target at any time (as long as the guy is sleeping) and no matter where he might physically be, so while Mather might not tell Morgan why the urgency, I'm wondering if she might not ask (even if he declines to answer).

Also, and this kind of speaks to the level of surveillance Mather et al ought to be running on La Spada, they couldn't just send Morgan in if the target isn't also sleeping, right? So some reference to this detail might be nice.

I'd like a little more on Morgan's relationship with her dream guide.

The old woman refers to "gods." Is Morgan a pantheist or is there something more we should know about the dream world? Who are the "we" the woman refers to?

I'd love more details on this dream world. I think that's critical to making this story special.

Early on, Morgan says "I don't want to go back. It's not safe there anymore. It's not like it was when I was a kid. Back then it was perfect." She smiled. "Back then I had friends. But now, now it's all shadows and whispers. I can't trust anyone there. My guide told me not to go back.". But I don't get a sense of this at all when she arrives back.

Pursuant to this, with regard to the sea, which seems to be central to the dream world, we are told that This sea was capable of the most horrendous storms, for this was a place where ideas and emotions clashed together like treacherous winds. One mistake here and a person could be lost forever on an ocean made of vacant thoughts or vivid memories. The price back in the real world would be insanity. Morgan closed her eyes and prayed for clear skies. The calm winds carried her away until she forgot all her worries and closed her eyes. Time was forgotten, days past while she slept under the warm sun. It might've been interesting to see Morgan put at some risk here.

Mather doesn't seem to know much about the target, La Spada, when Morgan asks for some info. Wouldn't his outfit have generated a rather large dossier on a dude who represents a clear and present danger? Something he could give to Morgan with the expectation that she should digest it all that night? I mean, she couldn't sleep anyway, presumably because of her concerns, but why should Mather (or Morgan for that matter) care about sleep, since she'd have to sleep the next morning anyway for the mission? Morgan only gets the picture of the daughter when she's on the bed ready to go to sleep. Seems kinda late in the game. Further, Morgan explains "I need to know more about him. You know, what are his likes, his dislikes, who does he love? That sort of thing. Do we have anything personal of his? Anything to make it easier to find him?" …"Yeah, anything to help me feel his essence." Strikes me that Mather ought to know this, that this should be SOP for these missions, as he and his agency trained Morgan.

Small grammar detail: Morgan tried to ignore the words as the ship drifted further and further from the shore. This was the furthest from shore Morgan had ever been. The correct usage in these cases are farther and farthest.

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Post August 16, 2009, 04:18:05 PM

I like this story, especially the parts in the "dream" world. It was very vivid. The lack of detail regarding the "real" world did not bother me. My imagination could supply the missing information.

The only thing I would suggest is a prelude, something short but vivid from the next to the last journey to the dream world designed to capture the reader's attention and make him ask "What is going on here?" Then, the exposition that follows would seem more rewarding. That would make the story "show" then "tell" then "show, again." As written, there was a lot of "tell" followed by the "show".

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