I feel I should give this rating a disclaimer. If this book were not a re-read, if I had come into it completely new, it would have been a 3 to 3.5 for me. But the memories I have of this book are so pervasive and so revolutionary back when I read it that I can't give anything that formative less than five.
Honestly, these recollections were not all The Dream Master
. I just started cutting my teeth on "adult" sci-fi at the time, and threw myself recklessly at anything that purported to be a classic. This is why I had the fortuitous luck of reading Zelazny's The Dream Master
right up against Ursula Le Guin's The Lathe of Heaven
. Both dealt with dreams, albeit it in different ways. One was a tool consciously then unconsciously wielded, the other was an unconscious wildness that others sought to tame. Both ended in a manner that was both tragic and suitable.
What I remember was the description of the son as he described how an inventor dreamed of efficient machines while he pulled off the legs of grasshoppers and how the metal gears must have sounded like the shrieks of all those murdered grasshoppers. I remembered comparing it to the Kafka-esque descriptions of lacquered shells in The Lathe of Heaven
, the otherness of nature and how it is molded. I remembered cars that drove themselves and didn't stop when someone walked into traffic, and deep set eyes of a guide dog who could speak but not exactly like a human nor howl like the dogs he had been mutated from.
I remember glancing at the computer for practically every other scene, looking up things like Eloise and Abelard (which I still remembered) and enantiodromia (which I did not), fascinated at how symbols played out while the language and structure unraveled. The references and scenes helped me to better appreciate the rest of the scenes, and the narration of dreams kept my imagination going at full throttle to picture it.
So essentially what I am doing is justifying why I love this novel even though it can feel padded with the many threads and does not come qualitatively close compared to Zelanzy's other works. Because this is a book that can work like Render's machine, and it has left its mark when so many other novels are completely forgotten; although this mark may be malleable and refitted with a new awareness, it lingers the same way a particularly memorable dream will retain flashes and remnants even when you wake.