Book Review: Brutal Dreams by JD Cowan

The blurb:

A Living Nightmare

After awakening in the woods, Christopher Archer finds himself trapped in a world outside of time. Fog monsters, armed gangsters, and a legendary spear, all await his arrival. But what about the fiancé who disappeared months ago?

As Archer explores this eternal midnight, he can only wonder—is this all just a dream, or is there something more hidden in the dark, watching his every move?

There is one choice. He must traverse the nightmare and learn the truth.

I read JD’s Pulp Mindset around a year ago, just after I’d begun my own self-pub groove, and I’ve been excited to get to some of his fiction ever since. Shows how big my TBR pile is don’t it?

The title of this piece really says it all - JD takes us rapidly through a nightmare dreamscape that thankfully delivers a satisfying conclusion where so many ‘real’ dreams leave us hanging.


The story starts as these dreams often do - with a man searching for something or someone. There seem to be threats ahead and behind, and an abundance of details that don’t seem to make any sense. Literally anything could be around each corner, or lurking in the shadows, because in the dream world, rules and sense break down.

I really appreciated this accurate portrayal of a dreamlike structure. JD grounds it in sensible plot with the contact with other humans and gradual revelations as to what’s actually going on. The dream logic still drives each twist and turn, and yet in the end, everything makes sense.


The story is laser-focused on our hero Archer’s arc and motivations, with little time spent on secondary characters. That is good for a novel of this length.

An unexpected ally with a tragic backstory and emotional connection to the conflict is the next biggest standout. But Christopher himself is plenty to keep us invested as he fights the madness of the strange world he’s been sucked into, and the bloodlust of the [redacted].

Craft and Critique:

JD knows exactly what he wants from this book, goes for it, and achieves it. The action is fast-paced and Brutal, and the ideas scale up beyond what’s expected (something I always enjoy).

I see lots of passages where JD’s found his chops, and others where he’s still working them up (as we all are). The main enjoyment and strength of the piece for me was in the dreamlike structure and the steady unfolding of the weirdness behind everything.

If I could have wished for anything else it would have been more intrigue in the third quarter of the story and less action, but all in all, this is a fun, pulpy horror novel of surprisingly cosmic proportions.

Get your copy today!

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