Sleepless is Charlie Huston's 11th and probably most challenging book to date. It is definitely one of the most difficult books I've read in recent years, but not challenging in the sense that I couldn't follow what was going on as the events and actions of the characters are all too believable. Sleepless while in keeping with Huston's noir style is vastly different from his other works. This is more than just a brooding type book like the Joe Pitt casebooks.
Sleepless is horrifically real. The realism is at such a high level I felt I was reading the personal journal of someone who went through these events. We are thrown into a harsh near future apocalyptic where a disease called Sleepless is running rampant. Those with the disease slowly degrade mentally and physically over a year before dieing. If anything they are very zombie-like yet worse off for realizing what is happening to them as opposed to becoming completely mindless, which would be a blessing in this case. This is a Los Angeles where factions have sprung up dividing the city and hope is all but completely lost. The SLP disease is spreading with more than 10% of the world's population infected. There is no cure and no hope for one. The only relief suffers can hope for is the highly regulated drug Dreamer/DR33M3R, which can alleviate most of the pain for a short time.
At first I didn't realize the story was told from two different points of view, which was probably just me missing a cue, but once I had a better handle everything coalesced well. The main part is from Parker Haas's compelling perspective who is a hard nosed undercover cop. I was immediately drawn to Haas as he is in a horrible situation from all angles, but he is still trying to do his job and care for his family as his wife suffers and his empathy for her captures you in its wake.
Haas was forced to go into drug investigation work while his wife is at home suffering from Sleepless with their infant. He trudges through LA's seedy underbelly dealing with drugged out rich boys and hardworking RPG entrepreneurs with selflessness and& resilience. A strong online RPG element is enmeshed in this world as everyone is trying to escape the daily horror that is real life, which echoes the fears of many mothers nowadays. The other point of view is that of a hitman who always collects his due. I was a bit taken aback by some of his proclivities as they seemed out of place, but he grew on me with the telling.
Huston proves with this work he is more than capable taking chances that pay off. Sleepless is a high concept Thriller that mixes just the right amounts of Noir Crime, Horror, and Science Fiction that'll keep you coming back despite the anxiety caused from the story. I give Sleepless 8.5 out of 10 Hats. It is a dark, but worthy journey to undertake. I'll definitely need some lighter fiction though to cleanse my reading spirit a bit lest it rebel.
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