...at once smothering with grim nastiness and a breath of fresh air in the broader series, which is approaching an ultimate end soon ... while it might sound challenging to leap from our usual cast to a group of fresh faces, the structure of Dead Lies Dreaming makes the leap simple. It’s a heist novel, so by nature, it is contained and delimited within a set of time-restricted events. That’s also part of why it does, as I said, feel like a necessary and entertaining breather from the overarching plot of the series. The introduction of a crew of lovable thieves and their loathsome adversaries, plus all the crosses and double-crosses and scheming, vaults over the barrier of “getting to know a whole new cast” by hooking the reader onto a plot with a breakneck pace, excessively high stakes, and the general inherent fun of heists.
Horror can offer something beyond carnival-ride frights or Grand Guignol gorefests, and those echoes of the disturbing in ordinary life are what I’ve come to see in Stross’s work.... an eldritch nightmare of busy monsters doing their monstrous business, into which have leaked some of our more mundane bad dreams – which, I suppose, is better than having it the other way around.
This is like a gonzo riff on Robert A. Heinlein’s Magic, Inc., enhanced by imaginative set pieces and plentiful references to classic SFF. Bullets and jokes fly in equal measure, and even if they don’t all find their mark, Stross still hits the bull’s-eye with this fresh take on the caper genre.