At first, they blame the air.
It’s an old idea, a poison in the ether, a danger carried in by the wind. A strange haze is seen drifting through town on that first night, the night the trouble begins. It arrives like weather, or like smoke, some say later, but no one can locate any fire. Some blame the drought which, for years, has been bleeding away the lake and browning the air with dust. Whatever this is, it comes over the town quietly: a sudden drowsiness, a closing of the eyes. Most of the victims are found in their beds.
One night, in an isolated college town in the hills of Southern California, a first-year student stumbles into her bedroom, falls asleep—and doesn’t wake up.
She sleeps through the morning, into the evening. Her roommate cannot rouse her. Neither can the paramedics who carry the girl away, nor the perplexed doctors at the hospital.
Then a second girl falls asleep, and a third, and panic takes hold of the college and spreads to the town.
On the bright side:
- This book is off to a great start.
- The premise and idea is interesting, and I’m always a sucker for a good dystopia.
- It gets you hooked, and does not drag on.
- The reality of a virus is very well-portrayed, and anything relating to and playing on the concept of sleep is very well-crafted. I could have spent page after page reading Walker’s description of the dreamers/sleepers, of how the disease takes you away, of the fear to fall asleep, and of all the parallelisms building on sleep.
- It starts to explore some interesting points about human nature and society, parenthood, adulthood, adolescence, family, memory, companionship, grief.
On the downside:
- It never goes any further than the surface in those explorations. To be fair, I don’t think it’s because the surface was enough, but because of the number of open fronts.
- Which brings me to point two. There are too many characters and we constantly switch from one to the other. The sometimes interact, but even when they do, it doesn’t mean anything more than a fleeting interaction. Having so many characters did make the book feel more fast-paced, but it meant that I did not connect to anyone. I didn’t have time to feel things, and I love having strong emotions when I’m reading. I’m open, authors, destroy me.
- Along the same lines, there are too many things happening due to the number of characters, but at the same time, not that much is going on. The escalation pace did not feel organic and or like it’s contributing to something bigger.
- I felt it lacking this “something bigger”. I don’t know what the author wanted to say with this story – was there a point? If so, I missed it between so many characters.
- I really struggled with the male characters, esp. Matthew. I love the idea of how people need affection at the end of the world, but he is the stereotype of an over simplistic idealist coming from immense privilege, whom Mei idolises and who treats her badly. I can’t get behind it, no matter how realistic it is that a college girl would fall for a guy like that.
- This is completely personal, but the writing style was not for me. For me, it tried to be dreamy and edgy, and some parts felt unnecessarily overwritten, but I’ve got to admit that Walker can definitely turn a phrase and give some excellent one-liners.
Not a bad rating, despite the snags we hit, because it certainly kept my interest and did not annoy me, it just underwhelmed me.
Thanks to Simon and Schuster for approving my Netgalley request in exchange for an honest review.