The Promises of Dr. Sigmundus, Book #1
Finished: Feb. 20, 2011
First Published: 2006, UK
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Genre: YA, dystopia, science fiction
When Dante Cazaban used his shoulder to open the double doors of the kitchen, he was concentrating on the mountain of soup bowls he carried on a tray in front of him.
Acquired: Received a review copy from Random House Canada.
Reason for Reading: I love dystopian fiction and books that are set in asylums; this fitting both descriptions was a must read.
Tarnegar, is an island community that houses the insane from the rest of the population in this country where dreaming is forbidden, adults (14 and over) take a drug to make them stop dreaming and comply quietly to any authoritative figures. Questioning the wisdom of any part of this society could have you banded a lunatic and thrown into the asylum. Dante is an orphan whose mother was a lunatic and killed herself by jumping off the roof of the asylum. He now works as a kitchen boy, but the drug has never taken away his dreams. Bea Argenti is a middle-class girl, daughter of two junior doctors, who will be turning 14 soon but questions the use of the drug and does not want her dreams to go away as she has been dreaming for a long time about a strange ruined city. The two meet and start to figure out that their society is based on lies and perhaps the time has come for someone to stand up for the truth.
I loved this dystopian novel! The idea of controlling society with drugs has been done many times before, perhaps starting with Brave New world, but it is a realistic thought-provoking idea that is not beyond the realms of possibility. Dante is a wonderful character and I liked him from the beginning; his background and character are fleshed out as the story progresses. This is definitely his story. Bea on the other hand has not been as fully developed, and she felt more like a sidekick, a female element to satisfy the 'need' for one. Personally,l I don't think there is a need for a male/female partnership/relationship for a good story but perhaps she will have more of a point to the plot in the next book. I loved the asylum half of the story, very creepy! Then the story progresses far beyond that level, more character's are introduced and the plot takes on many more levels while remaining a very dark and atmospheric tale of a future controlled by a madman. There is a science fiction element to the story that at first seems more magical than scientific and I wondered where it was going. I like fantasy so that's not necessarily a bad thing, but the book did remain in the scientific world while having this quasi-science/magic element that had me stumped of whether the series was going to turn into fantasy. But at the end, the Author's Note qualifies that there really was, historically, a scientist who did many experiments in the field of the subject matter used in the story. This made me appreciate the story more when I had finished. I look forward to continuing the series but do hope that we see a return to the asylum at some point.