Paprika by Yasutaka Tsutsui

There was something so compelling about the cover of Paprika that I had to read this book. It is horrifying and alluring at the same time, this picture of a woman who seems to have indulged in her desires, yet the juice of the berries resembles blood to me more than anything else. The text inside is every bit as haunting as the cover.

Atsuko Chiba and Kosaku Tokita are shortlisted for the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine. Their work is in the field of dreams, wherein Atsuko acts as a “dream detective” who can intrude into people’s dreams in order to help them make sense of their psychoses. She is able to do this in part with Tokita’s invention of DC Minis. Conical devices, no larger than a centimeter, they are attached to the dreamer’s head in order to “collect” the dreams. As with any invention, however, something designed for good can also be turned toward evil.

Osanai has plans to deliver the facility to his mentor, Seijiro Inui, by making the administrator of the Institute, and the two candidates for the Nobel Prize, mentally incompetent. When he steals some of the DC Minis for his own use, the line between reality and dreams begins to blur. Soon, the lives of the characters become confused. They no longer know if what they are experiencing is reality, their own dream, or someone else’s dream, as they flutter between all three.

This is a fascinating look at the power of dreams, for who of us have not endured that terrible feeling of being unable to awake from a frightful dream? Or worse, living a life from which we wish we could wake?