Grace sent me the antepenultimate (next to next to last ;-D) pdf version of "Mariah’s Dream" well over a month ago. As much as I wanted to begin reading as soon as I opened the file, "life" intervened.
Was the paperback edition of "Mariah's Dream" out yet?
What happened next would Grace’s fault. This claim may be difficult to describe much less defend.
Five years ago I began reading "Cyber-Dublin". After reading just a few pages of it, I knew I could relax and let Grace's characters draw me along into their lives and even their thoughts. With Grace, I’m no longer part reader and part manuscript editor—a frame of mind authors have to battle whenever we read for pleasure. I can trust this author to tell an interesting story--free of plot gaps and sloppy characterization.
I stopped reading (again) and opened Amazon-US. Mariah's Dream was out in paperback. For some reason, only one copy was available. I ordered it at once lest it escape me. When my c/o/p/y storyteller arrived I offered her the other comfy chair and settled in for what I already knew would be an absorbing character-driven story.
Mariah’s Dream appeals to me in spite of the dystopic environment thanks in part to several characters I’ll describe later. And thanks to a variety of settings featuring the Irish countryside, its ancient paths and stone works, quaint villages and, above all, scenes in which water is more than a stage setting. Grace “does” water very well probably because she’s enamored of it.
“Mariah’s Dream” begins some time after this disastrous decision. Scientists may be working to develop terminator-resistant fertilizers. Agricultural workers held captive on experimental farms may be using these compounds and other methods to restore vital food crops. It’s not going well, as evidenced by strict food rationing.
I feel the graphic details of each plague death parallel previous and subsequent deaths too closely. I learned soon enough and more than enough about how this disease progresses so I began to skim paragraphs when I saw what might be a death scene developing.
To be blunt, I wanted more about the human reactions and less about how much vomit or blood was on the ground.
And to be fair, we see the horrified reactions of new victims, the selfless efforts of others trying to ease their suffering, and cruelly drawn-out grief of friends from the first signs of infection until the last breath.
Even when death is not an immediate concern to the characters, empty houses, abandoned cars and starving farm animals remind them, and the reader of the devastation since the sowing of the termination gene.
The one "good thing" you can say about a plague during a famine is, once it roars in, the spectre of famine seems less terrifying.
I've thought a lot about this plague--from back when I read scenes describing the first deaths to this moment. All I'll say for now is, read the book and see what you think. Maybe later we can discuss our theories in the Comments section or elsewhere. You were going to read "Mariah's Dream"anyway, right?
At least until she doesn’t.
Finally, Faith's story takes place half a decade before Mariah’s initial chapter begins. Could any event from that long ago in Faith's life be essential to the plot? Even the “terminator disaster” occurred more recently than the events in Faith's story. When I began reading, I worried that Faith would turn up in the last chapter as a character even older than I am. Spoiler alert: she doesn't.
Sometimes I would forget this discrepancy in years between chapters, in spite of every chapter title reminding us of the year. This was confusing. Don't do this.
Perhaps halfway through the book I began to feel that something odd was going on. “Something odd.” Oh, that helps. I told myself I was either imagining this something or I should have identified what it was by now. At least I had the sense to let it go and get back to the story.
"When you read Mariah’s Dream, take care that no one spoils the plot for you. I think, I hope, that you will enjoy being puzzled as much as I was."
Because of his unique role, Grace gives Rufus human skills like seeming to understand human speech. Even dog-lovers might be reluctant to claim that skill for their furry friends. In time, Rufus breaks out of this restrictive role. He finds a home with some characters in service to the plot, but Rufus develops into a (full) character in his own right.
No question. Rufus is my favorite character. I was more invested in his welfare than anyone else.
What's better than a good book? A good book that invites a second reading.
In lieu of discussing the plot.
In the world of “Mariah's Dream” these moments are no Saturday afternoon treasure hunt meant for the amusement of neighborhood children. Most characters are still in potential deadly danger. Established characters do die, sometimes without much warning to friends or the reader.
Some of these searches subtly drive the plot in ways you may not expect.