What Dreams May Come Critical Essays

Richard Matheson


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Although unique among Matheson’s novels, What Dreams May Come is closest in theme to the one that immediately preceded it, Somewhere in Time (1980) (originally published as Bid Time Return, 1975), and shares with it certain elements. One is the concept of a soulmate, the single person in the world with whom one shares a special rapport. In both novels, the protagonist must overcome seemingly insuperable obstacles to be with his soulmate—in one, the barrier of time; in another, the barrier of death.

One prominent theme in both novels is the dictum, “What you believe becomes your world.” Belief is enough to transport one man from 1971 to 1896 in Somewhere in Time. Similarly, in What Dreams May Come, thought alone creates reality, and Hell is a place of one’s own making. When Chris refuses to accept his death, he becomes lost in a fog that Albert tells him he created. In the “lower realm,” negative thoughts make Chris hunch over. To get through the darkness, he must conceive of light.

Blending a love story with metaphysical theory, What Dreams May Come constituted something new in the fantasy fiction field, making it closer to the nonfiction studies of Raymond A. Moody, Jr., and Elisabeth Kubler-Ross than to other works of fantasy. Although nonfiction books about the afterlife were becoming popular, Matheson was one of the few modern fantasy writers to use this theme in a novel....

(The entire section is 571 words.)