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Literature / Starbright and the Dream Eater

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Contemporary urban fantasy sci-fi drama of sorts, with some horror. At least, it contains elements of all of those. To explain, let's start at the beginning.

Eccentric 12-year-old Starbright Connor was born to her mentally disabled mother, Esther, and adopted, being raised to think that Esther is actually her older sister. Things in her life are going fine except for a strange mysterious illness called spindle sickness that's going around. The illness causes people to have powerful, realistic-seeming nightmares when they sleep, and to wake up feeling unrested, causing them to be more likely to fall asleep longer the next time only to, again, not feel rested. Over time, the people eventually fall asleep permanently, dying in their sleep.

Meanwhile, the nurse who birthed Starbright discovers that the illness is actually an attack by an alien that came to Earth. A different alien race sent a prophecy to Earth to warn them of this alien, known as the Dream Eater, and mentions that it must be stopped by a "bright star". Unfortunately, the prophecy was written in the form of ancient Native American poetry, in a dead language, due to the fact that the aliens who wrote it were trying to write it in the native language of whatever location on Earth it was sent to, and their aim was a little off. Starbright seems to fit the prophecy's hero role, and her nurse tries to track her down. In the meantime, the Dream Eater continues to infect people close to Starbright or otherwise related to her in an attempt to kill her, and finally targets Starbright herself.


Eventually, Starbright's best friend falls victim to spindle sickness, followed by Starbright herself. In her dreams, she finds she can communicate with other people who have the illness and have some effect on them. She also seems to be either immune, or not affected as severely as everyone else, despite her dreams becoming more nightmarish and Mind Screwy. Upon finding out the true nature of the spindle sickness, she sets out to stop the Dream Eater.

Very unusual book. Contains elements of life drama, sci-fi, fantasy, and even horror in the dreams, and it all takes place in a contemporary setting. Connects its elements together in a way that fits in naturally and surprisingly works.


This book contains examples of:

  • Chosen One: According to the legend which mentions the Dream Eater, Starbright is the "bright star" who will stop it, and it's trying its best to locate her and kill her.
  • Cosmic Retcon: Odd in-universe example. After Starbright defeats the Dream Eater, the past events magically change. Instead of people suffering from spindle sickness, they instead were suffering the effects of a poorly-tested pesticide. Every single reference to spindle sickness in the news is retconned out of existence and replaced with a reference to the pesticide.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Dream Eater.
  • Foreshadowing: After having read the book, a second reading shows that early events hint at things that will be important later on.
  • Genre-Busting: What is this book, really? Sci-Fi? (it shows up on a list of sci-fi books on at least one website) Urban Fantasy? Drama?
  • A Hero Is Born: The first chapter is literally Starbright's birth by her mentally disabled mother, as seen from the perspective of the nurse who is aware of the prophecy. The second chapter flashes forward 12 years.
  • Idiot Savant: Esther. Gifted in art and music, but very mentally disabled.
  • Kid Hero: Starbright. She's prophesied to be the hero, after all.
  • Mind Screw: How the Dream Eater tries to get to Starbright. Her dreams get increasingly surreal, creepy, and symbolic, as it attempts to mess with her.
  • Nightmare Dreams: What happens to those who get infected with spindle sickness, including Starbright.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Alien prophecy written in the form of ancient Native American poetry. Space alien who causes bad dreams in an attempt to kill people by inflicting insomnia. People communicating via their dreams. A girl born to a mentally disabled woman who is prophesied to stop the alien. A nurse who tries to track the girl down to warn her of this. Yeah, this is pretty random diverse stuff alright.
  • No Ontological Inertia: Played with. When the Dream Eater is defeated, all the people it killed stay dead, and the ones it sickened with its nightmares recover. However, it is literally retconned out of existence within the story, and it's as if it no longer existed. All references to spindle sickness in the news media transform into references to a dangerous pesticide poisoning people instead.
  • The Power of Love: Starbright's creative way of defeating the Dream Eater without killing it, once she learns what it's really about.
  • Random Events Plot: Averted. The elements used in the story are all over the place, yet the story they're used in flows logically and makes perfect sense.