by Adrian Barnes
Dawn breaks over Vancouver and no one in the world has slept the night before, or almost no one. A few people, perhaps one in ten thousand, can still sleep, and they’ve all shared the same golden dream.
After six days of absolute sleep deprivation, psychosis will set in. After four weeks, the body will die. In the interim, panic ensues and a bizarre new world arises in which those previously on the fringes of society take the lead.
Paul, a writer, continues to sleep while his partner Tanya disintegrates before his eyes, and the new world swallows the old one whole.
Imagine a world where no one can sleep, everyone is awake all the time. With the odd Sleeper, this is what has happened in Adrian Barnes‘ “Nod”. The book opens with a glimpse into the eighteenth sleepless day and it’s clear this is heading into an Apocalypse style ending.
I really loved this premise and the first few days felt as though they were building to a refreshing change from the typical Zombie Apocalypse. The main focus is on Paul, a Sleeper, and his wife Tanya. Along with the rest of the world, Tanya can’t sleep and according to the scientific facts reported on TV, she has a maximum of four weeks to live before her body shuts down.
I really enjoyed the first half of the book, but what happens next is strange, overwhelming and at times a little unrealistic. With the knowledge that the world is coming to an end and almost everyone is to die, the society of Vancouver is quick to deteriorate and crime and murder are abundant. Paul and Tanya decide to abandon their apartment and head out to find a safer place to live out this nightmare, but as they enter the world of Nod things become weird, mythical and ambiguous.
On their journey, the couple come across this story’s villain, a cult leader claiming the new world. He is kooky and odd yet to me there are no clear reasons behind his motives. He’s not strong, he’s not bold and I certainly can’t see him as a realistic leader, certainly not in a world where anything goes.
However the main problem for me was the lack of explanation and reasoning behind all of this. We were left with a lot of unanswered questions which I really need an answer to to rate this book higher. Why can people suddenly not sleep? Was is a disease? Radiation? Why are some people immune to it? Why are the children suddenly mute? Is it a choice? How did the children know to go to the park? What about the other countries and cities? Was it just an accident that Paul seemed to have prophesied this in his novel? There are too many loose ends and not enough answers to keep me satisfied. I think I’d certainly have preferred it if the second half of the book had been sacrificed for exploring the reasons why all of this was happening.
Overall rating: An excellent concept that couldn’t quite deliver what I wanted it to. I felt as though this was a book of two parts and I’d have preferred the first to continue in a more “normal” manner. I’m giving Adrian Barnes‘ “Nod” 3 stars for its strange unanswered second half and perhaps, as I’ve heard they exist, I’m going to have a look into alternative sleep related apocalypses.