Reviews

Sleepless, by Charlie Huston

nomiddlename's review against another edition

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4.0

Very slow and a bit confusing to start with, but got really good towards the end.

timgibbons's review against another edition

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5.0

The hidden secret about Huston's books is the core of humor he displays in them, something that adds a layer of humanity to otherwise dystopic topics like the travails of mass-murdering baseball players and the struggles of hunted vampire private eyes.

Sleepless isn't funny, though -- but might be all the stronger for that lack.

Set in what might be best described as a pre-apocalyptic world ("pre" in the sense that, sure, everything hasn't gone to hell yet, but just wait a week or two), the book presents both a new take on zombie fiction, a well developed mystery (albeit with a few loose threads) and a captivating exploration of humanity and how one retains it.

As with Huston's latest work (Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death, which was one of my best reads of 2009), Sleepless presents a more complicated read than the Joe Pitts casebooks -- something that I take as the author's growth as a writer. Most of the characters are not exactly nice people, and yet are presented in such a fullness of personality that both their flaws and motivations are explicable. Sleepless' view of the world and how -- on both a global and more personal scale -- it will all come to ruin is all-too-easily imaginable.

At this point, I'd pretty much read anything Huston wrote, anyway, but Sleepless has me anticipating his next book even more.

fionaaaaaa's review against another edition

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1.0

I didn't finish this one. I got up to page 80 and found it hard work. I thought it would be a great story in some ways similar to real life in a crazy sort of way, covid pandemic, fuel shortages, food shortages, dog eat dog attitude. But I just wasn't enjoying it. I think there was 2 main characters which I assume would connect together at some point, but I found the story too disjointed and frankly life is too short to read a book your not enjoying.

megmcardle's review against another edition

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5.0

Our world, a little forward in time, with a plague sweeping the planet that causes people to stop sleeping and then die. A cop is undercover trying to track the black market for the one drug that gives the sleepless some measure of peace, but uncovers a murder, a conspiracy and a contract killer. The action is gripping, although the shifting perspectives (told partly by the cop, partly by the contract killer) is confusing at times. As the sleepless aren't sleeping any more, Huston has envisioned that they spend their days and nights immersed in a video game. This game, and the underworld of the drug dealers, and the general descriptions of a world falling apart in the face of an epidemic are all fascinating, but what really got to me is the relationship of the cop and his wife, one of the slowing dying sleepless. Fantastic.

nmcspadd's review against another edition

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4.0

Man oh man, this is not at all the book I was expecting when I started it. I was expecting an easy read, a crime novel, a fluffy book that kept me turning the pages.

This is a heavy, bleak, deep, dark book. I got into it very slowly, but once I got into it, I couldn't stop. The reader has to work to put the pieces together, to understand the story, to care about the characters. But by the end, by the time life's hardest decisions are made and tragedy has struck, I found that I had come to care greatly about the aging hitman, about the undercover police officer, his dying feminist wife, and their baby. This is a stark vision of the world and of humanity, at times hitting far closer to home than I'd like.

I hope that the world doesn't end up like this. I know for certain that this book will stay with me for a long time.

manek_m's review against another edition

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4.0

Great book, if you like the genre. Very few flaws.

bent's review against another edition

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5.0

Just an excellent book. It's kind of a detective noir novel set in a future dystopia The two main characters are Parker Haas, a straight arrow police office, and Jasper, a hired killer. The two wend their way through a future Los Angeles, heading for the inevitable collision.

This is one of those books that I had problems putting down. The plot kept twisting and turning, there was lots of action, and you genuinely cared about Haas and his family. Jasper was also a fascinating character, an aesthete, obsessed with balance, that is also ruthlessly efficient. There is a point late in the book where Jasper should kill Haas but does not, and even though intellectually I was screaming "this is unrealistic" it was handled in such a way that I actually found his decision not too distracting.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I didn't know what to expect - it was at the bottom of a pile of library books that I had taken out, and I couldn't remember why I'd put a hold on it, but I'm really glad that I did. From cover to cover, this was a fantastic read. It might be the best thing I've read all year, although to be fair, it is only March 2.

mferrante83's review against another edition

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4.0

Since having discovered Charlie Huston some time ago he has quickly rocketed up into my circle of favorite authors. Blackstone Audio’s production of Huston’s Joe Pitt series read with style and panache by Scott Brick are some of the best audiobooks I’ve ever listened to and The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death was a unique, gritty, sometimes hilarious, and constantly entertaining crime novel. While I certainly did not have as much fun with Sleepless as I did with Huston’s other work it is definitely his most thought provoking work.

An insomnia inducing disease is sweeping across the nation; SLP a disease that erodes the mind driving victims insane and eventually to death. Society has not coped well with the disease and the Los Angeles that is the main setting for the novel is one quickly crumbling into chaos and disarray. Officer Parker Haas is working undercover in the drug trade, rampant now that the titular sleepless seek an escape from their suffering, trying to track down illegal trafficking of the consumer drug DR33M3R; the only known effect method for sleepless to actually sleep. Thrown into the mix is the aging mercenary/assassin Jasper who is hired to retrieve an item in Haas’ possession by any means necessary.

Haas is an interesting character. He is a paladin, but a paladin in a society that sees his ideals of justice and law as increasingly laughable verging on outright impossible. Indeed there are multiple times where Jasper, when first running across Haas’ path, automatically assumes that even if Haas is a cop he is a cop on the take. As society crumbles around him Haas holds onto the notion that there is a solid future out there for his daughter his idealized vision of society both armoring his mind and dulling his senses to what is really going on. Haas’ ideals and belief in law and society is contrasted by the civilized, if somewhat cold and violent, Jasper. It is fairly clear through Haas’ internal monologue that his strongly established moral compass serves as counterpoint to a potentially violent nature. Jasper’s amoral view of the world and complete acceptance of his violent nature mask a growing desire for something more. Both characters are well-developed and while the lion’s share of the narrative falls on Haas’ shoulders both Haas and Jasper frequently play foil for one another.

Sleepless bears a lot of resemblance to zombie novels it would be far too easy to write the novel off at first glance on that basis alone. The more one reads Sleepless the more that early impression fades. In truth the sleepless play less of role in the story then you might think. The sleepless are in many ways like a rather large rocked dropped in a rather small pond; they don’t serve any direct threat but the ripples they have on the social landscape of the world and the emotional landscape of the characters are impossible to ignore. In fact it is this trans-formative element of SLP that drives the conflicts of the novel.

It should be noted that in audio form Sleepless is a bit difficult to grasp at first. The novel employs diary entries to start many chapters and the narrative is split between both Haas and Jasper. As a result it took me a solid couple of hours to realize what has going on. The audio version is aptly handled by Ray Porter and Mark Bramhall though I think the complexity of the narrative is likely better served in print. Regardless, the audio production is top notch and if you’re willing to sit down and really pay attention to what is going then it is certainly worth a shot.

While Sleepless is a meaty novel the black humor that marked much of Huston’s earlier work did not feel as prevalent here. There are certainly some flashes of humor, particularly through Jasper, the does not often crack a smile and when it does it is often a very sad smile. This certainly adds to the emotional impact of the novel and the oppressive atmosphere of both the world and the mental concerns of our protagonist lends an element of tension to the narrative. However, that same oppressive quality occasionally grows cumbersome, not overbearing, but enough to cause a distinct and palpable wish for relief. As a result, Sleepless is not quite a casual read. It’s prose is as approachable and clever as any of Huston’s earlier work but Huston’s precise control of tone here works against ever letting the reader feel comfortable. This isn’t a bad thing, and Huston’s ability to maintain a taught emotional state over Sleepless’ 360 plus pages is something I think readers ought to be aware of before going in. I honestly can’t wait to see what else Huston has in store for readers. His body of work shows an impressive breadth of ability that will keep readers guessing and I for one can’t wait to see what avenue Huston chooses to explore next.

txbookmama's review against another edition

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3.0

A very interesting apocalyptic novel, drawn from and built upon storeis and theories that are currently in the news. It did take me at least half the book to figure out there are 2 separate narratives - Park & Jasper. That was a little confusing. However, an overall intriguing novel - recommended!