Christopher McMaster’s American Dreamer opens with a moment from history, real history, our history. It’s a snapshot from July 20, 1944, and the Democratic National Convention. It offers the briefest glimpse into the political machine that maneuvered Harry Truman into the vice-presidential nomination and set the collective course of American history on the path we know today.
The snapshot ends with the vaguely ominous statement that the party bosses took credit for what happened that night, the implication being that they had no clue, and no control, over what actually happened.
In McMaster’s version of an alternate reality, that is exactly right.
American Dreamer follows Nadia, a troubled teenager in a troubled timeline, one in which the events of July 20, 1944 turned out very differently, and sent tangible ripples through the decades into the 21st century. The Chicago she lives in is a darker, crueler alternate version of reality, where students pledge blind allegiance to religion, journalists are shot in the street, and a girl with strange dreams is considered dangerous. Across the course of the novel Nadia and her small band of tenuous allies must learn how to harness their dream states, and fight against the mysterious Miss Beil and her plans for history.
McMaster’s novel reads like a blend of Inception and The Hate You Give, with a surprising (and delightful) mythological twist just when you think you know where the text stands. Nadia and her allies are drawn with precision and inhabit a fully-realized city, complete with its own internal laws and logic, twisted as they are to our outside perspective. Rich in detail and imaginative in execution, American Dreamer offers a terrifying glimpse into what might have been and plays on the fragility of history and serves as a tantalizing first entry into McMaster’s Lucid trilogy.