The Dream Millennium

by James White
Reviewed date: 2005 Dec 20
Rating: 4
217 pages
cover art

"The way I see it," said Devlin seriously, "we have reached the peak of our cultural and scientific potential. It is as if we were a great overripe fruit. We started as a pretty sour and green culture which was prone to war and disease and social injustices. Gradually we grew in intelligence and self-awareness and empathy and personal freedom. The growth continued with society becoming richer, more colorful, sweeter and softer in every way. Now we are ripe."
"And?" asked the Brother.
"After ripening," said Devlin, "fruit rots."
"And you hope for nothing after that?"
"Oh, I'm stupid enough to go on hoping."
"For what?" pressed the Brother.
Devlin was silent for a moment, trying to find words which would not make him sound ridiculous, then he replied, "We are a big overripe fruit which is under increasing pressure. Maybe, before we fall completely apart, there will be enough pressure on us to squeeze out a pip."

The Dream Millennium, p. 50

The pip that Earth produces is a space ship filled with people in deep sleep, sent out to find and colonize a new planet. Devlin is a crew member on that ship. Although the ship's computers can run everything automatically, the colonists in deep sleep are awakened periodically to exercise their minds; one of the dangers of long-term deep sleep is loss of memory and brain function.

But Devlin and the others begin to find their memories sharpened, not dulled. Their memories become so vivid that they are painful. Further, they are dreaming while in deep sleep: horrific dreams filled with pain and death. These dreams too are painfully vivid in their memories, and they cannot forget. Devlin must figure out why their memories are being sharpened before the pain of vivid memories becomes so great that life itself is unbearable.

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