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Venetia Welby




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‘So, where is he then, your dad?’ The world may be on a precipice but Sol, fresh from Tucson-desert rehab, finally has an answer to the question that has dogged her since childhood. And not a moment too soon. With aviation grinding to a halt in the face of global climate meltdown, this is the last chance to connect with her absentee father, a US marine stationed in Okinawa. To mend their broken past Sol and her lovelorn friend Kit must journey across poisoned oceans to the furthest reaches of the Japanese archipelago, a place where sea, sky and earth converge at the forefront of an encroaching environmental and geopolitical catastrophe; a place battered by the relentless tides of history, haunted by the ghosts of its past, where the real and the virtual, the dreamed and the lived, are ever harder to define.

In Dreamtime Venetia Welby paints a terrifying and captivating vision of our near future and takes us on a vertiginous odyssey into the unknown.

Praise for this Book

‘Venetia Welby has written an extraordinary and haunting novel, a dystopian vision of the not too far distant future with a dash of ancient Japanese magic thrown in. Beautifully written, thoroughly researched and frighteningly believable, it’s a love story for our times and a dire warning, dark, angry, seductive, enthralling.’ —Lesley Downer

‘Intense, strange and fast-paced … Venetia Welby writes with verve and energy and takes us to places we never expected to go.’ —Sally Emerson

‘A rich, surreal and dreamy exploration of a woman's quest to find her father, blended with an imaginative vision of a world wrecked by climate change, Dreamtime is filled with lovely sentences that made me jump at their beauty and strangeness. It's also a fascinating exploration of the folklore and history of the island of Okinawa.’ —Sam Mills

‘Brilliantly complex, emotional, and frightening … The crazy, raw descriptions of Japan are just miraculously beautiful at times.’ —Dragonfly

‘A gripping, terrifying novel, speculating on an imminent and horrific future post-climate disaster. Dreamtime ticks all the boxes: folklore, cults, drugs, travel, booze, robots, and most importantly, cats. Lots of cats.’ —Nick Bradley

Reviews of this Book

Fiction to look out for in 2021 A host of dazzling second novels in the offing … Venetia Welby’s exquisite and hallucinogenic Dreamtime is set in a near future in which we have lost the battle against climate change.’ —Alex Preston, The Observer

‘Welby’s vision of our cobbled-together future—lives lost to the glamour of screens while civilisation corrodes—has an energy and charm of its own. Her descriptions of an earthquake-cracked Tokyo carry the noodley whiff and steamy press of Blade Runner’s neon-washed landscapes. And the hopelessly hybridised culture of Okinawa, where the stars and stripes jostles with local animist shrines, pulses with colour. It even left me with a hankering for “taco rice”, a dish as bastardised as its Tex Mex via Tokyo roots.’ —Alex Diggins, Exacting Clam

‘Venetia Welby’s arresting blend of chaos, love, mystery, myths and the supernatural, animals both real and shapeshifting, and the consequences of abuse in the private and public spheres, illustrate how human relationships are complicated and tricky. The world conjured by Welby is weird and elusive, as is the relationship of humans with Nature. Her beautifully stylized writing has a lyrical strange quality to it. The future is envisioned as being one of increased disempowerment.’ —BookBlast

‘Venetia Welby’s new novel, Dreamtime, is set in 2035, a time of rising sea levels and extreme weather events. It follows Sol as she completes a stint in rehab in Arizona, grappling with the trauma of her upbringing in a cult and searching for her absent father.’ —Jemima Skala, Literary Review

Dreamtime is an often deeply disturbing, haunting and nightmarish read, and yet is complete and realistic in an organic way. Welby doesn’t pretend she has any answers. The novel is, in essence, a presentation of harrowing truths and the confusion they cause. It’s not the first book to wrangle such themes against the backdrop of environmental catastrophe, and it won’t be the last. But it is probably the best you’ll read this year.’ —High Rise and Ink

‘This remarkable, disturbing work of literary fiction is like Heart of Darkness meets The Tempest. Revisiting the Animal Groom fairytale, it is set in the not-too-distant future, when humans are clinging onto existence by their fingernails thanks to environmental devastation. The human and environmental costs of violent, dominating masculinity are inescapable. At the same time, true love between a man and a woman is capable of transcending the bleakness.’ —Wild Women Writing Club

‘This uniquely multi-layered, multi-genre storyline, is wonderfully textured, brutally and frighteningly intense, deep and rich in atmosphere, ever evolving and written by an author who has complete confidence in the visual imagery of her words to lift the narrative and dialogue from the pages and make it come sickeningly to life.’ —Fiction Books

‘Welby’s writing style is original and uncompromising – as she proved in her debut, Mother of Darkness. Dreamtime is a step up but not away from this ability to conjure empathy for those whose behaviour is rebarbative. The sense of place – and how out of place incomers can be with their self-entitled behaviour – adds strength to a captivating tale tinged with regret. Man’s destructive behaviour continues despite the clear warnings of where it will lead. This is a disturbing journey exploring many varieties of abuse – of people and place – and the ripples triggered. A story laced with shadows and beauty that reminds the reader how much we look away when to see becomes challenging. An arresting window into a future that is worryingly believable.’ —Jackie Law, neverimitate

‘This book is such a unique experience, it takes you to a place where you have to hand yourself over to the narrative, and trust that you will, more or less, return. It has a narcotic effect as it transports you to a near future, and the final ceremony that Dreamtime are putting addict, Sol, through before she is considered ‘cured’ and is released to the world beyond the dome, to the arid ,dry deserts of Arizona.’ —Rachel Read It

‘What a scintillating surprise this incredible book is, the cover is indeed mesmerising and its detail definitely sets the tone for its enthralling contents. When I read the details for this novel, what attracted me to it, was my own fascination of how other people, Venetia in this case, envision the future! Trust me, Venetia’s fictitious concepts for what’s instore for the world; are deliciously horrifying and if you thought the Covid-19 pandemic has been trying…then what might come next, will blow your mind, mine is still reeling from the possibilities.’ —The Fallen Librarian

Praise for Previous Work

‘A clever and brilliant debut.’ —The Last Word Book Review

‘I loved this book – I read it twice.’ —Julia Sutton

‘Welby’s nimble prose and ambitious conceptual thrust reminds the reader of Will Self’s work (albeit in a more digestible form) and Soho-legend Sebastian Horsley’s phenomenal Dandy in the Underworld.’ —Volteface

Mother of Darkness is one intense piece of fiction, as Matty’s dreams evolve into the belief that he is the chosen vessel of a new god, Feracor. There are several strands of writing in the novel, including the psychotherapist’s reports; the life writing that she has suggested Matty attempt; and the ‘speeches’ of Feracor. Piece them all together, and the truth emerges eventually. The narrative pull of Welby’s novel in getting to that point is quite something.’ —David Hebblethwaite

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