Review by Tracy Rosenberg
Media Alliance, September 2015
American Day Dream by Margot Pepper is situated in San Francisco and embedded in the things we love about the Bay Area, but also lodged in the rear corner of our minds that hasn’t forgotten the Snowden revelations of June 2013. Or Cointelpro. Or every bit of sickening evidence that we are less free than we think.
In the long tradition of dystopian science fiction, but imbued with a humane and strongly feminist tilt, American Day Dream grabs hold of the red pill/blue pill dilemma of Hollywood’s Matrix, but without all the futuristic shiny toys.
What if, right here and right now and right down the block, everything we see and do and own, isn’t real? Job, home and friends are all a carefully planted illusion to keep us circling a hamster wheel for a social order running for the benefit of others.
In American Day Dream, the gadgets we love don’t connect us to humanity. They are the tool that traps us into dreams and prevents us from seeing our own imprisonment.
The novel addresses the price of looking up from the screen into the void. What would you say to the person who tells you reality isn’t real? Would you love them or hate them, or both at the same time?
The protagonist, a Marin-residing graphic designer with a seemingly cushy job at a biotech firm in downtown SF, temporarily breaks his circuits and faces a dilemma: remember that crack in the fabric of appearances or forget it as quickly as he can.
As he walks the road to choosing frightening reality or comforting dream world, the designer ponders who he used to be before his cushy condo, how friends, family and acquaintances reconcile their own illusions and what life might be like outside the penal colony.
And he meets a woman.
American Day Dream asks us to consider the joys, and the dangers, of authentic existence when the human experience isn’t what we thought it was. When the price of the little compromises is more expensive than we ever imagined and everything we thought was true about life, really wasn’t.
There is still a choice to be made in the world of American Day Dream, but time is running out on the dreamers. Jailbreaking isn’t just for i-phones. It’s for all of us before there is nothing left but pretty trappings on top of a penal colony.
In a society where we are being watched more than we can fully grasp, the distance between American Day Dream‘s Bay Area and our own is shrinking.
It’s a small step between dawn to dusk surveillance and planting us in a customized-just-for-us existence to meet all of our needs as incarcerated worker bees.
American Day Dream makes that leap and then paints the picture of what the hesitant walk along the road of resistance might look like – without the superpowers of Neo – for just a guy and a girl in Northern California.