I was recently saddened to learn that author Brian Sfinas had died after a short illness. Although I never met Brian face to face, I considered him a friend. He helped me redesign my old blog, Ancient Children—in fact, he did the heavy lifting on that job—and we worked together during the time that he managed Awesome Indies, a website supporting self-published authors. A talented writer with an exuberant, original, and fearless imagination, Brian published two speculative novels before his death, The Sexual Adventures of Time and Space and The Darkest of Suns Will Rise. I read and reviewed both books with much admiration. In memory of Brian and a brilliant voice that fell silent much too soon, I’m republishing my review of The Sexual Adventures of Time and Space.
In The Sexual Adventures of Time and Space Brian Sfinas has written an ambitious and compelling piece of fiction. The story centers on Michael Thorn, a twenty-something drug user obsessed with lucid dreaming. He and his friends devise a sensory deprivation chamber where, under the influence of sodium thiopental, they sleep for days exploring their private dreamscapes.
The novel is a cautionary tale of the lure and danger of solipsism.
It consists of a series of excerpts from Michael’s journal. A brief note at the start informs readers that the excerpts are evidence in the trial of his friends and the drug dealer who had supplied the sodium thiopental, so we know from the beginning that something has happened to Michael. We can only guess the crime with which the others are charged. The novel’s suspense grows from these unanswered questions and from our growing immersion in Michael’s inner life.
The journal provides the ideal narrative vehicle for this story. Not only do we experience events from Michael’s perspective, but the world is one step removed from his account. We aren’t shown his experience, only what he chooses to says about it. And the journal itself is incomplete. We are given excerpts, passages taken from a larger whole that are relevant to the upcoming trial. The journal creates the sense of a far larger world that we can’t see because we’re trapped in Michael’s head.
Even before lucid dreaming takes over his life, Michael is disengaged from the external world. Obviously intelligent, he harbors vague dreams of accomplishing something and making a contribution to the world, but he has no concrete goals. His job means nothing to him. People in general seem to bore or anger him. He does have a childhood friend, Kyle, and he’s on decent terms with Kyle’s girlfriend, Kate. These two share his enthusiasm for dream “vacations.”
Michael also has a girlfriend whom he meets after beginning his experiments in lucid dreaming. He conceals her real name and calls her Dorothy—not, he explains at length, after the heroine of The Wizard of Oz. Yet the connection fits his image of her. She’s a creature of fantasy, a figure from a dream. They are sexually intimate, of course, but they spend too much time asleep to know each other well. But Sfinas reveals enough about Dorothy to hint at her complexity, intelligence, and deep sadness.
At the heart of The Sexual Adventures of Time and Space is a tragic love story. Michael and Dorothy are young and lost and could have given so much to each other. If they only stayed awake.