Monday 12 December 2016

Dark Book Review: Nod

Dark Book Review: Nod

Review written by Casey Douglass

Nod Book Cover

As a sufferer of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with sleep. The hate part is that it no longer refreshes me as it used to, the love aspect comes from it sucking eight or more hours out of my day, hours that I’d have no idea what to do with, and bugger all energy to do it with. When browsing the Kindle Store a week ago, I saw that Adrian Barnes’ Nod was on offer for 99p. I read the blurb (below) and promptly bought it.

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. A handful of children still sleep as well, but what they're dreaming remains a mystery. 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. One couple experience a lifetime in a week as he continues to sleep, she begins to disintegrate before him, and the new world swallows the old one whole...

Paul is a lover of words, an author and etymological explorer who likes nothing more than to spend time alone away from most other people, studiously writing and quietly living his life. His latest project is a book about the history of sidetracked words, words that have seen their use changed or forgotten. He thinks about calling it Nod in reference to the biblical tale of Cain being sent there when he was expelled from Adam’s domain. He lives with his partner Tanya, and they carve out the best life they can. Then the world stops sleeping, and the tiny differences between them soon open up into breezy gulfs, as she succumbs to madness from lack of sleep and he has to watch it happen.

I was impressed with the way Nod showed the world going to hell, when something as everyday as sleep is taken out of the equation. From the experts on TV spouting guesses and opinions as fact (hmm, wonder what that reminds me of), to humanities chimp-mind emerging as panic takes over, it all seems very feasible. People turn on each other, power and water supply goes the way of the dodo, and psychopaths rule. The sleeper vs non-sleeper thing also gives rise to some great detail, such as people who sleep having to pretend that they can’t, or risk being attacked. This is a situation Paul soon finds himself in, Tanya having to use make-up to blacken the bags under his eyes.

Alongside the scenes of society dozily tearing itself to shreds, there is all the weirdness that goes along with it, particularly in relation to Paul’s book Nod. Let me put it this way, the wrong person sees it and three realities end up colliding, the remembered “normal” reality, the current sleep-deprived, end of the world one, and the reality of Nod and its disciples. Paul, understandably, finds his mind flitting between all three, particularly when he is running at the edge of exhaustion.

There is more to the narrative than I’ve revealed above but I really wanted to save some things for the reader to discover if they decide to read Nod (the real book, not Paul’s inadvertent world-builder). It was a supremely easy read, the more trippy/reality-bending elements not really slowing things down or making me pause to scratch my head. If you are a fan of post-apocalyptic fiction, maybe someone who enjoys the kind where the humans are the biggest threat rather than zombies, some kind of plague, or whatever, Nod might just be the book for you. I give Nod 4/5, it was a very enjoyable read and it’s a book I’d happily recommend.

Nod Book Cover © Copyright Titan Books

Book Title: Nod
Author: Adrian Barnes
Publisher: Titan Books
ISBN: 9781783298228