There is a horrible sense of desperation, anxiety and dread that act as the life companions and follow in the footsteps of the life bully that is sleeplessness. Like the carrion dogging the steps of the almost fallen, cruelly patient and awaiting the moment to work their black mojo, Kenneth Calhoun extrapolates this notion to an apocalyptic extreme. Insomnia strikes all who have never been touched by its icy tendrils as a solitary condition, but surely this is not the true picture. Given the nature of modern existence there is just no way to escape the fallout of its effects when just about everyone suffers from it. A pandemic of a sleep disorder would bleed into every corner of the modern world and cause it to unravel with an unpleasant intensity of shredded nerves and extinction
Kenneth Calhoun’s book manages to capture with a terrible precision the mind-bending fatigue that destroys coherent thought and warps the speech of those affected by the condition into something which at times struck me as quite lovely, probably not the writer’s intention. It might well sound a bonkers notion but at times the victims end up interpreting their world view like the child-like Vince of The Mighty Boosh. There is a verbally innocent logic at play as the deathly weary perform a sort of poetic word salad. I found myself reading some of their dialogue out loud and smiling before quickly grimacing at the horror of it all. This is no Clockwork Orange mangling of Sleep-speak, it has the tragic quality of crippled reasoning.
A life spent without sleep is a life spent through the looking glass. Through that prism of the real world we follow the journey of a number of different characters as they look for sanctuary in a world that is simply falling apart. A world where notions of morality shift and blur with the consistency of a blob of oil dropped in water. Previously rational people are driven to and perform horrible acts whose consequences multiply, and society and the hold we have on this world disintegrates. There are those who sleep and those who do not, those who cannot. Humanity drifts quickly toward a crossroads and the fork in the road is sanity and our flimsy hold on it.
It is great writing by this first time author Kenneth Calhoun, very assured and confident. Although it is not really like them the book and its aspirations does share DNA with other books such as WWZ or The Stand. If I was to recommend it to a reader of comic books I would lean towards the magnificent Walking Dead or the frequently disturbing Crossed. I really admired the ideas Kenneth Calhoun releases free-form within the narrative, ideas which in themselves would lend themselves to spin-off concepts. There is a languid morbidity to his use of language, a dreary unpleasantness which just about ticks all the boxes for me in terms of fireside apocalyptic entertainment.
A great beginning to a promising year for new books.
I see a Black Moon arising.