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The Dream of the Stone

Reviewed: January 15, 2009
By: Christina Askounis
Publisher: Simon Pulse
290 pages, $10.99

Looking back at The Dream of the Stone after I had finished it, the biggest surprise was that the novel’s first edition was in 1993. This 2007 re-release just doesn’t feel that dated. It has a rather timeless quality, which is a good thing in a fantasy.

I’d have to go for the term fantasy rather than science fiction. Even though the plot does involve some manipulation of technology and travel to other worlds in a manner than recalls the Stargate franchise (that movie first appeared in 1994), the struggle here is on the higher plane of good versus evil.

When Sam Lucas invented the Looking Glass it was more a matter of scientific curiosity to him than anything else - an application of the theory of wormholes; a way to travel to other worlds. It was only later that he became convinced the company he was working for had evil designs on his work.

Before all that, however, the 18 year old Ph.D. graduate had quarreled with his photojournalist parents and gone off to California to work for the Institute, leaving them with 14 year old Sarah in their quiet rural farm on the east coast. As the Lucases became more and more concerned about the nature of Sam’s employers, they decided to take a trip to California to talk him into quitting. Just exactly how that conversation turned out, we don’t really know, because their plane crashed on the way back.

Sarah is placed in the care of her Aunt Helena and Uncle Bernard, who live in New York City, and has to adjust to a whole new way of living. As time goes on Sam manages to confide in her that there is something sinister about CIPHER, the company which hired him out of grad school.

She meets a strange woman who turns up in variety of places - as a librarian, a substitute teacher at her school, a homeless lady who leaves messages in her tree house. The woman suggests that Sarah should read Lewis Carrol and makes cryptic comments about a Stone.

Just about Sarah’s only consolation in this new life of hers is her friendship with the rather mysterious young man named Angel, who helps her keep her balance, introduces her to the stables where she is able to go horseback riding, and helps her to escape from the mysterious men who seem to want a strange stone that Sam has sent her for safekeeping.

These men are from CIPHER, led by the unctuous Dr. Zvalus. They are, it seems, prepared to go to any lengths to get what they want.

Angel’s family are of Romany/Irish descent and his mother, while now a bit senile, used to be a fortuneteller. From her we get the first indication that the Stone is important.

“It comes from the great heavens,” she tells Sarah. “ It is as old as the stars. A holy thing, from a holy place. It wants to go back.”

And go back it does, yanking Sarah and Angel away from earth while they flee from CIPHER’s men, separating them on a strange planet where trees talk and both good and evil have palpable forms.

From this planet Sarah must travel through time and space to thwart the plans of CIPHER, which is merely the earthly extension of an evil force which calls itself Umbra. Umbra has grand plans for taking over the universe. Sam’s Looking Glass doors would give it access. The Stone would give it the power.

Askounis’s novel will remind readers of a number of other fantasies. There is something of C.S. Lewis’s Narnia in the struggle between good and evil, but it has a bit more of the flavour of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time and Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising. The difference, I suppose, would be that those writers produced series works and The Dream of the Stone appears to be complete in itself. There is room for more from this creation, and perhaps the fact that Simon and Schuster have rescued this book from out-of-print oblivion and given it a new life might mean that they have plans for Sarah and Angel. I certainly wouldn’t mind if they did.

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