Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Sleepless by, Charlie Houston

Charlie Houston's Sleepless certainly has an interesting premise. In a world not too different from our own (the novel takes place in 2010), there is a brand new worldwide pandemic:  insomnia.  Sleep being necessary for life, the sleepless are eventually driven mad and die because of a lack of REM sleep.  Initially ascribed to things like mad cow, it was traced to the same genetic markers as fatal familial insomnia.  Society collapsed. People retreated into virtual worlds of MMORPGs. The only hope is a drug called Dreamer, and LAPD officer Parker Haas's assignment is to find and stop the source of black market Dreamer.

Houston is more known for his Joe Pitt series, but I picked this one up at one of the many Borders liquidation sales I went to.  I have to say I was a bit disappointed.

The book is split into three POV:  a third person following Parker, a first person from a hit man named Jasper, and another first person of Parker's journal.  I'm not sure why we were also shown Parker's notes, but that ultimately doesn't matter.  Parker's story takes a little while to get off the ground, but I couldn't get myself to care at all about Jasper.  There was a ton of leaden exposition and back story throughout the book, but Jasper's was even less interesting than Parker's.  Even when Jasper was captured and was being tortured for information, the prose just laid there flatly on the page.

So much exposition in this book. And lists! Lists of things on shelves, in boxes, on tables, on the floor, and in car trunks.  Lists that take up three or four lines of text.  Lists of things the characters never use! At one point I wondered if Houston was using lists as a way to up his word count; then I summarily stopped reading the lists.

I liked Parker's story and found it twisty and engaging enough, but I couldn't help wondering what a different writer would do with it.

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