Nod by Adrian Barnes
Genre: Sci-Fi / Apocalyptic
My Rating: 4/5
Synopsis: 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. 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. Paul, a writer, continues to sleep while his partner Tanya disintegrates before his eyes, and the new world swallows the old one whole.
I’m really jealous I didn’t come up with this concept myself because it’s just so interesting. What happens when suddenly the majority of the population can’t sleep? They’re not like insomniacs, who are able to sleep a little, but they cannot sleep at all. I really love this concept and it’s a unique take on ‘outbreak’ books. Who needs a virus when your own body is destroying itself?
We see this quickly decaying world through the eyes of Paul, one of the minuscule few who can still sleep. And when they do sleep, they dream of the same fantastical golden light. Now, I must warn you that this isn’t a novel that gives a lot of answers, so don’t go into this expecting to have everything explained. Instead, this apocalyptic novel is a study of humanity, not a study of science and the unknown.
That’s where the strengths of this novel lie: in its character study of humans. We see the Sleepers attempting to survive in a world that has suddenly gone to the dogs. It’s no longer the sane Sleepers who are in charge, but the insane Awakened. Paul is forced to navigate a world where societal norms and values no longer apply, and where there is danger around every corner.
I thought it was really interesting to have Paul’s partner, Tanya, as one of the Awakened. We meet her as a sane woman and watch her deteriorate, which was pretty bleak. I had a lot of sympathy for Paul; he obviously wants to hang onto Tanya, but Tanya no longer wants to hang onto him, her brain having been overcome by sleep deprivation.
Adrian Barnes has created an interesting set of characters. Charles, a homeless man who finds power in this New World Order. Zoe, a mute little girl who’s oblivious to the decay around her. And the Awakened themselves. I think perhaps their insanity was a little exaggerated for the purposes of the novel, but then again I don’t know much about the psychosis sleep deprivation can cause. However, it was interesting in that this apocalypse had a set time frame. Paul knows that after a month the Awakened will die, their bodies succumbing, and this ramps up the tension as he attempts to survive in a world growing increasingly madder, but with an end goal in sight.
The reason I didn’t give this 5/5 is because I would have liked some answers. Just an answer to one of the questions would be great, but I won’t list them as I don’t want to mildly spoil anything. Also, whilst the writing was good, it wasn’t my favourite style of writing I’ve ever read. Still polished and well thought out, but not entirely my cup of tea.
However, overall, I did enjoy this book. It’s only a short read and an interesting concept so I would recommend it! Just don’t go in expecting all your questions to be answered.
Have you read Nod? Did you enjoy it? Let me know in the comments below!