Dreams of the Sea


291 pages
ISBN 1-895836-96-4
DDC C843'.54





Translated by Howard Scott and Élisabeth Vonarburg
Reviewed by Douglas Barbour

Douglas Barbour is a professor of English at the University of Alberta.
He is the author of Lyric/anti-lyric : Essays on Contemporary Poetry,
Breath Takes, and Fragmenting Body Etc.


Dreams of the Sea is a complex and compelling character study of a
number of figures from various races and civilizations on the planet
Tyranaлl. The novel takes its time setting up the multiple narrative
lines in different times (or universes), but reaches a powerful and
deeply moving conclusion.

One of two planets circling Altair, Tyranaлl was once home to an
ancient race, the Dreamers. Their many cities and artifacts seem to have
been waiting for colonists from Earth to arrive and discover the
enigmatic civilization long dispersed from the planet they call
Virginia. But the first expedition runs into trouble when a mysterious
sea suddenly appears, killing any person beneath its surface. Yet, given
the way humanity has nearly destroyed Earth’s environment,
colonization must go on. So those in charge pretend that the sea is
“normal” and ignore its enigmatic implications.

Another narrative line of the novel concerns some of the Dreamers, who
can dream both past and future. One of them, Eilai, appears to be
dreaming the future (or alternate world) coming of Strangers, who turn
out to be the Terrans. Indeed, the individual stories of colonization
and settlement that make up the bulk of the novel are revealed through
her dreams.

Vonarburg’s tale of two alien races making contact across the
centuries that divide them is an example of anthropological science
fiction at its best. One comes to care for the convincingly individual
characters of both races as they try to deal with the sea, a
transcendental artifact of an even more ancient power.


Vonarburg, Élisabeth., “Dreams of the Sea,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 23, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/32115.