Marco Kunst is one of those rare and remarkable authors who take the genre of fantasy seriously. He demonstrated this in his award-winning science-fiction novel Gewist (Wiped, 2004) and has proved it once again with Isa’s droom, a cleverly constructed fantasy, rip-roaring adventure and sophisticated Bildungsroman, all in one book. Marco Kunst takes an exceptionally original approach and succeeds in the tricky task of creating an authentic fantasy world.
When sixteen-year-old Isa swallows sleeping pills after a failed audition for TV programme Winners & Losers, she slips into a coma and wakes up, dazed and amazed, on the rugged island of “Inner Land”, a metaphorical territory representing Isa’s interior, her psyche.
The map of Inner Land is clearly based on Freud’s egg-shaped sketch of the structure of the human mind and the topography also sounds familiar. Areas such as the Inner Eye, or Sea of Perception, the Motor Jungle, the Mountains of the Super- Ego, Repressia, Obsessivia and the River of Life meandering through the island all demonstrate just how carefully Kunst has constructed this imaginary land. The coherence and credibility of the story never falter for a moment.
Kunst skilfully uses words to play with the idea of “real” and “unreal” all the way through the book. Everything in Inner Land is just an image. However, Isa realises that she has to take her quest seriously. She breathes life into the images, allowing them to develop into rounded, believable characters.
These characters include her dead brother Seb, who lives on as “Memory”, and Izzy, Isa’s “young Self-image”. They all find themselves in the same “metaphorical boat”.
Isa teams up with Izzy and Seb and they set off to battle against Alysha, Isa’s “fantasy”, her “morbid Obsession”, her self-image as a pop idol. Alysha, together with her sinister Mantras, is responsible for the dam that is blocking Izzy’s River of Life and causing the Inner Land to dry out.
In her quest, Isa is supported by a cast of exciting and original characters, including the loquacious seaman Sentirus, “a member of the perception club”, and Lady Justice, who tells Isa that she is there to weigh her, not to show her the way.
Isa’s droom is packed with subtle humour and clever puns – combined with Kunst’s vivid descriptions of the landscape and the compelling pace of the plot, they make this a story that you have to read in one sitting. It’s an easy read, in spite of its serious theme.