Eneasz Brodski’s “What Lies Dreaming” is not a book for an idle or casual read. It’s a book that makes demands of the reader and has faith that reader will meet its demands. It is a book that finds its stride and gains momentum as the pages turn and one that rewards readers for committing to it.
The structure is unorthodox, and that structure may be its most immediately distinguishing feature. It blends points of view (and at time tenses) in an accelerating and tightening web that ties a slave, a soldier, and a senator together as the inexorable hubris of Rome and human nature combine to drive the city further and further into disaster.
Though much of the horror stems from the hearts of the men, this is a cosmic horror story. The writing of the monsters shines as their surreal traits (and more terrifyingly their effects on people) spring into being. They take familiar elements of horror and convey them in new (and satisfyingly disconcerting ways).
Equally impressive (though possibly only to Roman history geeks), the blending of historical reality shines through in details small and large. The way a senator views musicians, for example, is an obscure enough piece of history that the fact it is correctly portrayed suggests that the period setting is thoroughly researched.
Befitting any good cosmic horror, this addresses and, I believe, portrays mental illness. By way of caveat I have no mental healthcare training nor personal experience with what I believe was portrayed (so I suppose it is possible that it was done poorly), but I found it to be believable and compelling. I thought there was a devious ambiguity as to where the mental health issue ended and where the speculative element of the story began.