While John narrates the entire story, is he really experiencing the events through his own eyes or is his entire quest is just a dream?
The journey John takes appears to be real. At first, he has a vision of a gigantic Dead Place in its time of glory. So his father sends his son on a physical journey of discovery required as the final initiation into the priesthood. What he encounters is so realistic, it would be difficult to classify it as a dream. As he travels for eight days, he notices the forests have been reduced to "great blocks of stone". As a forest dweller, John interprets what must have been concrete as stone. He would have had nothing in his experience to be able to dream this. He also sees broken bridges, and a "dead god" that he realizes was once a man. In the end, his journey gives him entirely new knowledge that he wants to recapture for his people. To do so, he will probably have to show his people the "place of the gods" directly and that would be impossible if his experience were just a dream.