Frequently, when I choose my next book to read, I intentionally avoid anything polished, conspicuous or readily available in multiple copies. I prefer to find the quiet gems, small works written in earnest by relatively unknown authors. Usually, my efforts are rewarded by a rich and satisfying read, but this time, the return was even greater.
, by Kenneth Calhoun
, is a diamond in a sea of rhinestones. This smart novel follows a handful of characters as they navigate a world plagued by an epidemic of insomnia. They struggle with moral issues as they try to make decisions about their loved ones who are afflicted with the condition. They must also carefully monitor their own health and realistically assess their chances of survival. In the midst of the chaos, they cope with the normal problems that trouble friends, lovers, and companions.
Consider this passage, as one of the characters, Biggs, describes the frightening state of sleeplessness.
The sleepless, in their total exhaustion, quickly lost their ability to distinguish fact from fiction. The unguarded gate in their heads was now propped wide open to suggestion and persuasion. It was a great time for storytellers he thought, for magicians and, of course, advertisers- his abandoned trade. It was the ideal era for placebos: well-intended, white lies that produce truth in spite of themselves.
Carefully chosen, succinct language is the trademark of this excellent debut novel. Scientific and humanistic concerns are carefully balanced in a skillfully told tale that is poignant and perceptive. Please make sure to check out this superb debut novel.