I Hear You Knocking: Happy Slumbers and the Un-ending

In 2012 I added a fourth book onto the Dragon City ‘Trilogy’ (now the Dragon City Series), a book called Happy Slumbers. The ratings and reviews are starting to reach a critical mass, and the results are interesting. While the first three books have averaged an average (three star) rating, this one is significantly lower – around two and a half – and it’s probably because the readers have finally lost what little patience they had with this series. Each and every book has faced a continuous grumbling of unhappiness due to the stories’ unwillingness, or outright refusal, to explain the inexplicable mystery at its heart. The ‘dragon’, as it were, may or may not be a creature, or may or may not be a spatial anomaly or some kind of disturbance, into which people can vanish and can sometimes be ejected from. For each such victim, the experience is different, but in every case it is somehow addictive and pleasurable. Happy Slumbers promised an ending, wherein all questions would be answered. Somehow the readers are not seeing it. Maybe it’s because it’s not what they expect to see, and we generally only “see it when we believe it”.

Dave Edmunds’ classic rock’n’roll song says “I hear you knocking, but you can’t come in”, and this is analogous to the problem faced by the protagonist in Happy Slumbers. The creature, or whatever it is, does not want him. He is not allowed to even perceive its presence. Others can, and one of those others is an old woman he finds sitting in the park, having been “kicked out” after fifty years of being within. She is impossibly old, having been an old woman already when she was first drawn in. She tells him how it, whatever it is, feasts on the human imagination. Our dreams are its candy, like lollipops it enjoys, slowly and with relish until it has had enough.

People do the same thing with books. Our brains feed on them. We suck the author’s creativity out until we’re done, and it’s candy if it tastes good to us, if we like it. If we don’t, we reject it. It’s not our flavor. Happy Slumbers is not a popular flavor, it seems. People do not want to be excluded, nor do they want their heroes to be excluded. They can’t stand it when they aren’t positively rewarded. The hero must be the victor, in one way or another.

The dragon rejects the protagonist (Alex) in Happy Slumbers, just as the series itself rejects the readers’ demands for a full and complete explanation of the dragon itself. It is an alien, but we are so used to having our aliens fully revealed to us! We don’t even understand the simplest creatures around us here on planet Earth, but aliens from other worlds or other dimensions? No problem.

Happy Slumbers is an un-ending, in a sense. It may not be the ending readers want, but it is the ending that works for me. It leaves you on the outside, which is where we all are when we finish a book. We were in that world for a while, but then it’s over, and then we’re not.

 

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