How many days can you survive without sleeping? What if you try to sleep but you can’t? You are just awake and alert the whole time. Well, more time to browse Tumblr and catch Pokémon. Who’s complaining! Now, the government assumes that microwave radiation is responsible for the sleeplessness and shuts down all means of communication – internet, telephones, television, radio. What do you do now?
Distance seems real for the first time and the society slowly spirals into chaos. Welcome to Nod.
Adrian Barnes’ debut novel is a dystopian world where majority of the people cannot fall asleep. There are a few “Sleepers” who blissfully sleep and dream the same dream every night and there are a few Sleeper children who do not or cannot speak. The Awakened, as the non-sleepers call themselves, form a new religion and wage a war against the Sleepers believing them to be demons. There is a new God and a new Prophet, and of course a Holy War. The beautiful, orderly streets and restaurants have collapsed leaving dirty, stinking messes. The Sleepers have to survive in these inhuman conditions for a little over a month as sleeplessness should kill the Awakened by that time.
The horror of the story is not that some entity or virus corrupts the people or turns them into zombies. The horror factor is that the lack of sleep and the hallucinations bring the inner demons to surface. It also shows the dependency of each individual on many others. The strong, independent men/women that we are will turn into a sobbing mess if the Starbucks on the street corner ceases to exist or the plumber doesn’t show up. Nod brings out that horror and amplifies it several times over.
Nod is a quick and easy read which raises more questions than it answers. Do the Sleepers survive? The awakened seemed to be suffering from ill-effects of not sleeping, but is the sleeplessness fatal? Why don’t the Sleeper children speak? Are they the next step in evolution relying on something other than speech for communication? What is the significance of the common dream that all Sleepers dream? I don’t know if Barnes is planning to write a sequel to answer these questions, but if he is I will surely read it.