Maxi's Reviews > Sleepless

Sleepless by Charlie Huston
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Sep 19, 11

bookshelves: dystopian, thriller, horror
Read in April, 2011

This was (unexpectedly) my best read this year! (…so far ;-)
Can’t get this story out of my head (that’s why I write this review 4 month after I finished the book!)

Sleepless is set in an apocalyptic L.A. where the population is infected with a spreading prion protein (SLP), which causes insomnia. There is no cure and infected people die after horrible suffering from the slowly advancing inability to sleep. Only one drug brings some relief, DREAMER, which is sold on the black market and suspiciously turned up just after the SLP prion started to spread.

Nobody knows where DREAMER comes from, and this is why LAPD officer Parker Haas goes underground as a drug dealer to find out the source. But apart from his dangerous job, Parker has problems at home. His wife, Rose, is infected and due to her condition and the resulting confusion and hallucinations she is unable to take care of their small baby girl, which she refuses to have tested for SLP. As Parker strives to find the responsible agents for the SLP outbreak in an attempt to make the world a place for his daughter to grow up in, he increasingly neglects his family.

The other narrator of the story, Jasper, has given up on the world and only wants to pursue his extravagant amenities as long as he still can. Highly pedantic, with a fine taste in food, drink, art and music he is a skilled professional killer and the cynical counter part to Parker Haas. As Parker’s, Rose’s and Jasper’s ways cross, the plot leads up to the pivotal point where Jasper is left with the baby, representing a hope and a future, which had no place in his life before.

I admit that the writing is a little but hard to get into, for one reason because of the language (especially for a not native English speaker as me the slang was difficult to understand at first) and the point of view changes a few times before you really get into the story. But it’s totally worth the effort!!

The set up is marvelous in all its details. You have the central idea of the SLP prion, spreading sleeplessness among the population with no way to cure them and the resulting chaos.
Everybody has experienced those nights, when he/she just could not get any sleep for some reason and knows what it feels like. Now, extrapolate, what happens when large parts of the population of a city cannot sleep at all for weeks. They wander the streets, suffering, disturbed and confused, out of control.
In the story the sleepless seek diversion by losing themselves in an on-line role game called Chasm Tide, which plays a central role in the story. Even as a never-seriously-played-a-computer-game-in-my-life girl, I loved the idea how the virtual characters, weapons and recourses are traded I real life.

Some of the characters became vivid pictures in my head, especially Lady Chizu with her strange collection of typewriters. The character of Parker Haas is strangely more defined by his father (who committed suicide) and by his wife Rose (though, independent and constantly using swear-words) and their apparent incompatibility. I hated - and was totally fascinated by - Jasper and his strange exclusive tastes and efficient breaking and killing methods.
(I actually re-read the story in only the parts which are narrated by him…)
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