Friday, October 2, 2009

Review and Interview: Dreams of the Dead by Thomas Randall

I was fortunate enough to be asked by a wonderful blogger, Little Willow, to participate in a blog tour for Thomas Randall's book, The Waking: Dreams of the Dead! Read on to discover more about this intriguing paranormal horror story and about the fascinating author. :)

The Waking, Book 1

Tags: MG, YA, paranormal, horror, vampires, murder, deaths, Japan

Rating: 3 out of 5


Kara and her father are spending her junior year of high school at a prestigious private high school in Japan. Moving to Japan had been something they’d worked for since even before Kara’s mom died in a car accident, but Japan is not all that she expected. The Japanese customs are difficult to remember, even when Kara constantly reminds herself of them, and some of her classmates are not at all friendly to the gaijin—the foreign girl. Even scarier is the fact that just several months ago a girl was murdered on the slopes behind the school, and no one has found the killers yet.

One of Kara’s only friends at school, Sakura, happens to be the dead girl’s sister, and when strange things begin to happen—Kara and others begin to have frightening nightmares, students begin dying in eerie ways—Kara suspects that Sakura may have something to do with the deaths. Is Sakura taking revenge for her sister on her sister’s killers, or has the dead girl actually come back to finish the deeds herself?


DREAMS OF THE DEAD is a well-written novel that combines the fascinating ways of Japanese life with your typical horror story. It may satisfy young horror fans’ appetite for creepiness, but others may find it difficult to stay engaged with the slow-moving plot.

Perhaps most brilliant about this book are its endless depictions of Japanese customs. Either the author has done his research well, or he has actually lived in Japan before, because we truly get to experience Kara’s discomforts, difficulties, and simultaneous fascination with Japan. The author makes us always aware of the language his characters are speaking even though everything is written in English, and reading DREAMS OF THE DEAD was like effortlessly taking a semester abroad in Japan.

The slow plot often hinders the horror component of this book. Much remains a mystery as Kara experiences her nightmares and is forced to observe her classmates’ deaths, and while this was suspenseful at first, it quickly grew too prolonged to hold my attention. Honestly, not enough interesting and horrifying things happen to justify the number of pages it takes to get to the sadly rushed ending.

That being said, there aren’t that many straightforward, classic horror stories anymore, and so DREAMS OF THE DEAD fills a welcome deficient spot in the YA genre. Pick this up to experience a slightly creepy story in a fascinating foreign world; it’ll make you want to move to Japan yourself—though not for the horror part.

Similar Authors
R. L. Stine
Simon Holt (The Devouring)

Writing: 4/5
Characters: 3/5
Plot: 2/5

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5

Cover discussion: 2.5 out of 5 - Creepy composition, especially with the colors, but unabashedly white for a book set in an Asian country, where the dead girl was JAPANESE. Eurgh. Those of who you read my post about the Liar cover know my feelings about this subject already.

Bloomsbury USA / Sept. 29, 2009 / Paperback / $8.99

Thank you, Anna, for sending me a copy for review!


A Quick Interview with Author Thomas Randall

1. Your details about Japanese life are so vivid and believable. How much of it was drawn from personal experience, and how much came from research?

TR: It's very heartening even to be asked that question. I've gotten a lot of feedback from people who assume that I must have spent some time in Japan or at least visited there based on the atmosphere of the book, but actually I've never been there. I would love to go and I certainly hope that having written this trilogy will somehow lead to an opportunity to visit the country. However, everything in the book comes either from research--both from books and from reading essays, articles and blogs online--and from Japanese folklore.

2. Noh plays are integral in the characters figuring out what's going on in the story. Do you have a particular Noh play that is your favorite?

TR: Again, everything I know about Noh I learned from research. I've never had the good fortune to see one performed live, but I would love to do so. The combination of folklore and artistry and discipline is fascinating to me. The middle book in the trilogy, SPIRITS OF THE NOH, focuses even more on the Noh club, and I loved reading about the history of the art form and the various masks.

3. Of all the characters, who can you relate to the most?

TR: Though very few of us have ever been as much a stranger in a strange land as Kara is in DREAMS OF THE DEAD--starting a new life at a new school in a foreign country with no one with whom we have anything in common to fall back on--we've all been there to a certain degree. Everyone feels like the outsider sometimes. Everyone goes through periods, especially as a teenager, when we feel isolated and tentative. So I relate in a big way to Kara, and I think that most readers will relate to her circumstances too. I also relate to Miho, who is sort of the voice of wisdom among Kara's friends.

4. Dreams of the Dead is, in a sense, a vampire story. What is your favorite vampire story?

TR: Wow. There are so many that I love. Richard Matheson's I AM LEGEND. Stephen King's SALEM'S LOT. Anne Rice's original INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE. Bram Stoker's DRACULA. The classics are classics for a reason. I also love the novel THE LIGHT AT THE END by John Skipp and Craig Spector. Brian Lumley's NECROSCOPE books. Of more recent books, Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse novels are huge, huge fun.

5. What's a book you've read recently that you would recommend to teen readers?

TR: Check out THE BLUE GIRL by Charles de Lint. Excellent, excellent stuff.

6. Any final thoughts you want to say to readers?

TR: Only that I hope you'll check out THE WAKING: DREAMS OF THE DEAD and that it creeps you out...and that you'll let me know what you think.


Thanks for answering my questions! You can find out more about the author, the book, and the blog tour at his website. (And for the record, Thomas Randall is a pseudonym for....? It's a not-so-secret secret. Can you figure it out? *smiles enigmatically*)


  1. Oh, wow. I'd seen this one before, but dismissed it as typical horror by the cover. Now that I know the Japanese culture behind it, I am definitely intrigued and will be on the look-out for this one!

  2. Japan + culture = awesome. I want to read this one. Thanks for the review and interview, Steph!

  3. I'm so glad you've reviewed this, because I'm really intrigued by it. Luckily, what interests me most about this book is the fact it's set in Japan, so I think I'm going to like it.

  4. Thanks for the review. I really am intrigued by this novel because of how it is located in Japan :)

  5. Great questions. I also thought he must have lived there with how well he knew Japanese customs.

  6. You are so right about the cover. It's plain rude! Not sure this one is for me. I'm the sort of person that has nightmares after watching Flashforward. I'm seriously wimpish.

  7. Thank you so much for checking out Dreams of the Dead and interviewing the author! :) Let me know if you want to take part in the roundtable discussion and/or get updates on the next books in the series.

  8. I just finished reading this as well, I'll be creating my review in the next day. What I loved most about it was how Randall created the Japanese element throughout. He did a phenomenal job with that.

    It's funny though, I never considered this book horror, sure there were creepy parts but for me I always picture horror to include far more gore than this book did.

  9. Sounds like a unique book, it's too bad the plot was slow for you though. I'll give it a try as it sounds interesting :)

  10. Slow-moving plot :( But the setting in Japan along with it being a bit creepy and paranoraml diefintely piques my interest. I'm going to read it, just not rush out and get it.
    Thanks for the interview! I can't believe the author wrote so well about Japan and has never been. That's some talent! :)

  11. I like the concept of this book, and especially the fact that it takes place in Japan. I love learning about foreign places and culture. :) Will be adding this to my TBR list.

  12. This book looks good I might read it.

  13. Love the cover! I absolutely love that the setting is Japan

  14. Great review and interview - I can't believe the author has never even been to Japan. Pure craziness!
    I must read this book - I LOVE JapaN!

  15. This book looks so good, I love creepy eerie books like this.

  16. I love that you call this a 'straightforward, classic horror story'. That sounds right up my alley.

  17. I like how this book cobines Japanese lifestyle. I visited Japan last year so am interested in reading this book.

  18. I've been wanting to read this for a while now. I never see it in my bookstore though.

  19. I like creepy books, I will have to check this one out!

  20. This seems like an intense read. I love books like this.

  21. Nice review, sucks that the plot is okay but I'd still give it a chance!

  22. It sounds like a different type of book.

  23. Not too sure how I feel about a slow plot. With life being so busy, I kind of like my books keeping up with me. haha. Nevertheless, great review. I kind of like that the setting is in Japanese. Sounds a little creepy too with the dead girls and all.

  24. I love a good horror story. It's too bad that it moves slowly because it sounds like it has a lot of great elements. The Japanese culture sounds fascinating. Thanks for your review!


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