Fever Dream delivers just what its title promises: a surreal, frightening blast of nightmarish impressionism.
Written in 2014 by young Argentinian author Samanta Schweblin, it’s a slim but sickeningly effective eco-horror novella just released in English after what appears to be a skillful translation by Megan McDowell.
The story revolves around young mother Amanda and a child – not hers – named David. She is in a hospital bed and he sits by her side; they’re talking about some horrific event that occurred some days earlier, which we assume led to Amanda’s condition. What happened and why does David – eerily mature David – need to hear this story? And what does it have to do with the worms?
Are the worms some kind of brain-eating space bugs? Some mutant parasite? Or are they something else entirely, a less literal manifestation of a strange sickness that seems to be afflicting people? Poison, delusion, insanity?
If it’s answers you want, this might not be the book for you. While it’s firmly grounded in the real-world, it’s suffused with an uneasy, dread-inducing strangeness that serves to obscure what’s going on.
In that sense, it’s not a horror novel in the traditional sense of the word: there’s no blood or guts or bodycount. The horror is all implied – happening off-screen if it’s happening at all – and all the more disturbing for it.