Nod by Adrian Barnes

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Nod by Adrian Barnes

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Category: Dystopian Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sam Tyler
Reviewed by Sam Tyler
Summary: Enter a world very much like our own, but in which the vast majority of people can no longer sleep. How long will it take society's fragile walls to crumble? Find out in this disturbing and well written dystopian novel.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: March 2016
Publisher: Titan
ISBN: 9781783298228

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For anyone who has suffered from insomnia, the idea of a world with no sleep is an unsettling place as it feels so real. The thought of having to drag yourself to work after a night with no sleep is bad enough, but what about two nights, or three, or four? Society will crumble if everyone missed five meals in a row, but what would happen if we all missed five nights of sleep? If you end up in the land of Nod, we are all in trouble.

Paul is one of the few sleepers left, only about one in a thousand people can now catch forty winks, the rest of the world is awake. This includes Paul's partner Tanya and as she loses more and more sleep she becomes agitated and confused. If things are looking bad indoors, the outside is even worse as the once peaceful citizens of Vancouver are getting to the end of their tether and they will do anything just to get some sleep; even if that means catching and killing one of the strange sleep-able children that roam the woods.

There are so many factors in a dystopian novel that need to mesh for the book to work. The first is of course the concept. All the best science fiction has a great idea at its centre and Adrian Barnes' Nod certainly has this. The idea of getting no sleep will chime with anybody who has had a poor night sometime in their life. It is easy to imagine that after only a few days the thin veneer of society would start to crumble if you were so dog tired.

However, for the book to really stand out, it would also need to be written well. Barnes achieves this by making it a bleak future you can depressingly believe in. Barnes has written the book in the first person, which makes life more difficult as a writer, but in Paul he has created the perfect protagonist. Paul himself is an academic writer who studies the origins of words, this means that his journal is well written and you can believe that he would use the descriptive style that Barnes bestowed him. Setting the book in Vancouver also helps as the Canadians are seen as a more tolerant country than their North American neighbours; so seeing them buckle under the pressure is even more disturbing.

The first 100 pages or so of Nod are particularly affecting to the reader. This is the part of the book where the madness begins, but has not gone too far. It all feels very worrying and familiar to the reader as social niceties are the first thing to be jettisoned when the majority of people cannot sleep. The book delves into your own fears to the point that after reading the first half of the book in one sitting, it effected my own sleep!

It feels like Nod is going to be a masterclass in Dystopian writing, it brought back memories of Richard Matheson's classic I Am Legend, but whilst that book manages to keep the tension throughout, Nod does struggle a little as the story unfolds. Paul's first person perspective is no longer a bonus when his own mental capacities are diminishing. The book becomes a little too complex and also goes from being something that feels like a disturbing potential future, to more popcorn science fiction.

Despite the tail of the book being a little flatter than the start, it is still an outstanding read, if just for the first half alone. Barnes is able to write a horrifying novel without the reader even knowing that they are reading horror. It is not the beasties that go bump in the night that scare you, but the demons that live inside your head; with Nod Barnes has just reached into your skull and given their bellies a rub.

There are some fantastic Dystopian Worlds to discover; try Sand by Hugh Howey or Railhead by Philip Reeve.

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Buy Nod by Adrian Barnes at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Nod by Adrian Barnes at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
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