I found out last night that my brother’s baby boy was about to arrive. You can’t even imagine my excitement. The first of a new generation. Another little person in the family to mix things up.
As luck would have it, I found this out at about 10:30pm and the excitement of this decimated any chance of sleep from occurring. I spent the night staring at the dark ceiling and hoping that I wouldn’t miss a message or a call. I had asked everyone to knock on my door if they heard any news. But what if we fell so deeply into sleep that we ALL missed the update? What if we slept through the birth of my little nephew?
Fourteen hours later and he finally came into the world. Fourteen hours later I knew that my sleep could have been deep and long and nothing would have changed. At the time, of course, I didn’t know this.
You see, I didn’t have to worry about that being my last sleep ever. I can make up the lost time tonight or tomorrow.
But what if it was my last chance at sleep?
Nod, a novel by Adrian Barnes, explores this concept. What if suddenly, you couldn’t sleep? How long would it take for your body to crumble and, more importantly, for your mind?
Paul, a writer and his girlfriend Tanya, a corporate warrior, are in this predicament. Tanya can’t sleep but Paul can.
Paul is forced to watch his girlfriend succumb to the effects of insomnia and to navigate a world where hysteria is the norm. A systematic chaos has usurped rational thinking and he’s forced to dance to the tune of those who are at their literal wits end. The world is permanently awake, except for a few random individuals.
The old world is gone and the new world, Nod, has arrived.
And Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden
It takes four weeks for the body to die if sleep is withheld.
Four weeks that Paul needs to survive.
This novel was relatively short but for it made a big impact. It’s a new, interesting concept and I was intrigued from the get go. Despite the flaws of the characters, you can’t help but feel immense sympathy for their struggles. After all, Nod sounds like a hell hole.
The author did a wonderful job of transitioning the book from normalcy into full blow chaos. He presents beautiful contrasts that fully realize themselves as the book progresses. The relatively short length of the novel means that these moments are vivid, real and very much remembered.
Sometimes she claimed to be an alien spy, her human disguise flawed only in the earlobe department. She’d confess this to me, then wink. – page 18, Day 1
When it was over, her earlobes, the ones she’d told me marked her as alien, marked her as mine. I bowed my head and kissed each one in turn. – page 212, Day 13
It’s these moments that show the skill of Barnes. He has clearly thought deeply about how to showcase the characters developing mental states. Little moments like these, easy to miss, are what make your eyes slightly water at the bittersweet emotion.
The names we give gatherings of birds are telling; murders of crows, sieges of herons, unkindnesses of ravens. They must have made our ancestors nervous. – page 12, Day 18 (prelude)
No blood just yet, just a little clear liquid running down one cheek like a tear. Soon ravens would come and be unkind to her. – page 76, Day 5
The ending of the book gave me goosebumps. The last paragraph of ramblings that cuts off mid sentence has a profound effect when coupled with the authors afterword. After going on this intense journey with the character, to realize that the struggles were real for Adrian made my heart twist. For the first time in a very long time, I put the book down and actually said ‘wow.’
However, this isn’t to say that the book was a ten star rating.
There are definite areas that Barnes overreaches himself. His writing has a wonderful flow to it when it isn’t prettied up. It feels at times that parts of the book were edited to sound impressive. Some words were too big, too complex and too clunky for the sentences they were stuffed into. This made Paul sound pretentious and difficult to connect with. Fortunately this is mostly contained to the start of the book and Barnes lightens the language up a bit by the end.
I think that Barnes could have let go of the flowery language and instead focused on some more interesting parts. I wanted to know more about the dogs, more about the struggle to find fresh water and food and about the eeriness of the city now deserted of sanity.
The book is written as a series of diary entries but this doesn’t really seem consistent and doesn’t add anything to the telling of the story. Barnes should have ditched this slightly detached and sometimes pretentious way of story telling and focused in on the gritty reality of the situation. Paul shines as a narrative figure when he is delving into the gruesome and horrifying situations he encounters. His way of describing scenes kept me engaged but I wanted more of it. I don’t want his thoughtful descriptions of Tanya. Nor do I care about his pessimistic poetic ramblings about her as a concept. I want to know what she smells like, what sound her footsteps make or what Paul thinks when there is no filter; when there is no time to stop and revise the words that arise in his head. Moments of gritty, horrifying reality slip through but they are brief and often pushed to the side in favor of long soliloquies.
Despite these negative aspects, the book was fantastic.
I wasn’t expecting the impact that it had but it will stay with me for a long time. I hope there is more from this author because if he refines a few elements of his writing, the sky is the limit!