By Karen Thompson Walker
Simon & Schuster
Release Date: Jan 2019
It’s an old idea, a poison in the ether, a danger carried in by the wind. A strange haze is seen drifting through town on that first night, the night the trouble begins. It arrives like weather, or like smoke, some say later, but no one can locate any fire. Some blame the drought which, for years, has been bleeding away the lake and browning the air with dust. Whatever this is, it comes over the town quietly: a sudden drowsiness, a closing of the eyes. Most of the victims are found in their beds.
One night, in an isolated college town in the hills of Southern California, a first-year student stumbles into her bedroom, falls asleep— and doesn’t wake up.
She sleeps through the morning, into the evening. Her roommate cannot rouse her. Neither can the paramedics who carry the girl away, nor the perplexed doctors.
A beautiful and brilliant novel written by the NYT bestselling book The Age of Miracles. Karen Thompson Walker takes you on a dystopian journey set in Santa Lora, a small town in America where a mystery contagion is causing people to fall asleep and they cannot be woken again, some people live, some people die the sleep virus is spreading and its spreading fast.
The novel starts at a school in Santa Lora where Mei finds her room-mate asleep. She assumes it is from a heavy night out and leaves her to sleep peacefully all day. She becomes concerned when Rebecca doesn’t wake up after 12 hours, she tries to rouse her and nothing… this is the beginning of the virus, Rebecca is the first victim. As the book goes on more and more people catch the sleep virus, at first it is just the school, then nurses, doctors slip into sleep until the whole community is in panic that it could be them next. The book shows different perspectives throughout, there is Mei and students in the school, A father and his two children Libby & Sara, the family next door couple Annie, Ben and baby Grace and a few others are sprinkled within the story, but these feel like the main characters. Most of the characters intertwine at some stage in the book even if they didn’t know each other.
My favourite characters were the father and the two girls. They seemed to have been from quite a poor background and you could tell they were missing a mother such as one of the girls gets their period and their father doesn’t have any sanitary products in the house. The father had always been expecting something like this to happen.
“No one in this town knows a goddamn thing about what’s coming, he says to himself or maybe to the girls”
He already had a basement full off food, provisions, blankets, water and gas masks, but even the most prepared can’t hide from this mystery contagion. I enjoyed reading their part of the story the most especially when the girls are more vulnerable, how they cope and survive trying to escape from the virus, yet they were always happy to help other people in the community even if it put them at risk. For children of 10-11 years old they were wise beyond their years.
I saw this novel being described as a “slow-paclypse” I understand that it isn’t a full-on action-packed thriller, yet everything about it kept me reading and wanting to know more so I felt it was “fast paced” in its own dream like subtle way. The plot always kept me interested and I was invested in all the characters, as a reader you didn’t know who was going to fall asleep next so when you are attached to the families involved you want to know how they will survive without certain family members. Also, as a reader you were just as clueless about the virus as the characters, you didn’t know what it was or where it come from, how it is being spread, if the sleepers will wake up again, what they are dreaming about or what happens to them when they fall asleep. What I really loved is, not until the very end of the novel do you get an insight to what it was like for a sleeper, what they were dreaming of and how it felt to be asleep. The not knowing anything kept me intrigued.
I loved the originality of the virus how it wasn’t just some flesh-eating bug or zombie apocalypse, people feared sleep. Sleeping is something we as humans do on a daily basis and don’t think twice about, how Thompson turned something so natural into something that caused so much, chaos, panic and worry was really fascinating. It was interesting to see how a town coped with something spreading, how they barricaded the roads, so no one could come in or out, how they tried to quarantine the “sick” and how they adapted their surroundings for instance they turned the library into an extra hospital. I kept thinking whilst reading this, if the virus was something like Zombies or EBOLA the contamination would have been contained faster and people would have realised how it was spread. With the contagion being people just falling asleep with no real signs of symptoms beforehand, as first I don’t think people understood what it was or how fast it could spread. It reminded me of a book I have read previously called Nod by Adrian Barnes, in his novel the virus is reversed, where by people can’t ever fall asleep again, so everyone becomes sleep depraved and goes mad, a rather chaotic novel quite the opposite of this sleeping town of Santa Lora.
Overall, I absolutely adored this novel, if you enjoy dystopian, sci-fi novels this book is for you. It is beautifully written, thought provoking and perfectly dreamlike. This novel is not out until January 2019, but here is an Amazon link for you to save on your wish lists. In the mean time I will be purchasing Karen Thompson Walker’s other novel The Age of Miracles.
Have you read The Dreamers? What were your thoughts on this novel? If you haven’t read it yet you can purchase on Amazon on the 15th January 2019. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Katie x
*Thank you NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Fiction for an ARC in exchange for my fair and honest review.**