A young woman named Amanda lies dying in a rural hospital clinic. A boy named David sits beside her. She’s not his mother. He's not her child. Together, they tell a haunting story of broken souls, toxins, and the power and desperation of family.
No previous book, at least, has filled me with unease the way Fever Dream did ... Schweblin sustains both conversations while narrowing them toward a single question: the mysterious horror of the worms. Intertwined, these two dialogues form a shadow of an explanation—one that runs on nightmare logic, inexorable but elusive, and always just barely out of reach ... In Fever Dream, every body is a shell for another voice, another presence. The reader begins to feel as if she is Amanda, tethered to a conversation that thrums with malevolence but which provides the only alternative to the void. Eventually, I began to mistrust every word—not because of the potential dishonesty of the characters, and not because the artifice in Schweblin’s conceit was becoming unwieldy. Rather, I sensed that something terrible was happening just out of sight ... the genius of Fever Dream is less in what it says than in how Schweblin says it, with a design at once so enigmatic and so disciplined that the book feels as if it belongs to a new literary genre altogether.
...[a] mesmerizing debut novel ... David — Schweblin hints — might be a hallucination, a product of the fevered state that gives the novel, nimbly translated by Megan McDowell, its title. But his existence or nonexistence doesn’t really matter because the emotions he elicits are so chillingly real and familiar ... Schweblin is an artist of remarkable restraint, only dabbing on the atmospherics, while focusing her crystalline prose on the interior lives of the two mothers, Amanda and Carla, as well as the vagaries of memory ... Schweblin renders psychological trauma with such alacrity that the conceit of a poisoned environment feels almost beside the point ... After reading Fever Dream, I wanted Schweblin to let the rope out more. Not because Fever Dream isn’t an almost perfect short novel — because it most certainly is. But because I wanted to see what Schweblin could do when she went deeper into the place where she so skillfully had taken me.
...an exceptional example of the short-and-creepy form ... This is where Schweblin comes closest to Pedro Páramo. Rulfo's novel is half surreal tale of the afterlife and half political critique: Comala, where it's set, is a town of the dead because Pedro Páramo, its sole landowner, starved his tenants to death in a prolonged act of cruelty and rage. Fever Dream is an eco-critic's version of the same plot ... translated perfectly by Megan McDowell, who for my money is the best Spanish-to-English translator around. Schweblin writes with such restraint that I never questioned a sentence or a statement. This is the power of the short novel: Stripped down to its essentials, her story all but glows. Which makes sense, after all. It's toxic.