If you were young, suddenly single again, and feeling a bit lost and unsure - what would you do if you were offered money to tell a harmless little lie? If you were camping out at a friend's house after the break up of a relationship that had been just cruising along anyway, what would you have have done if an old friend's father asked a favour? Would you help your old schoolfriend just because? Do you ever really think about consequences - and even if you do, could you possibly imagine that somehow - taking the wrap for driving a car over the speed limit - could get you into a whole lot more hot water? And when you ended up in hot water - would you simply walk into another person's life if you had the chance? And once you became that other person where would you go?
Nick Carmody goes to Melbourne. When, for money which he's a bit ambivalent about getting anyway, he lies under oath in court to save an old schoolfriend from going to jail, he knows this friend's father is a wealthy, influential and ruthless businessman. But Nick is helping out Danny Grogan - and his father is offering to pay. Probably if Nick thought about it, he could see there was a bit more to this late night speeding ticket than it seemed on the surface, but Nick's a bit disconnected from life and he's just going with the flow. Much the way he ends up owning a superannuated female greyhound - called Fred. It just sort of happens. And it just sort of happens that Nick and Fred pull into a beach carpark beside a panel van owned by Kevin Chambers. And drive off in Kevin's panel van. And along the way between Sydney and Melbourne, Nick becomes Kevin.
DREAMLAND lets you watch, with a sort of leery fascination, Nick as he, surprisingly simply, becomes Kevin. It also becomes apparent that as good a job as Nick has done to become Kevin - somebody has worked it out and they are hell bent on stopping him. The question really is - are they after Nick or are they after Kevin?
DREAMLAND combines a darkly comic tone with some very matter-of-fact exploration of how easy it sometimes is to make decisions that change your life forever. Nick is one of those characters that you alternate between liking and intensely disliking. You marvel at his audacity and wonder at his naivety. You celebrate his kindness, and you rail against his dismissal of things that will really really really matter to some readers.
DREAMLAND started out in a direction I couldn't really pick, somewhere in the middle it switched and I was wrong-footed, and right at the end I was thrown again. Definitely a confrontational reading experience, it certainly was a fascinating way to spend an afternoon.