I have not been sleeping well lately, so I am reminded of the excellent novel published in 2010 by Charlie Huston entitled Sleepless. The story takes place in the not too distant future in Los Angeles . About ten percent of the world’s population has become afflicted by a strange new disease. They can’t sleep.
The victims of this disease want to sleep and they desperately need to sleep, they just can’t. The human body requires sleep. When you don’t get enough sleep strange things happen. People who have extreme sleep deprivation can start to have what they think are hallucinations. These are actually dreams that your brain is having while you are awake. The brain needs to dream and if you don’t go to sleep it will do it while you are awake.
In this futuristic world, there is one source of hope for the sleepless. A pharmaceutical giant has perfected a drug called “Dreamer” which counteracts the effects of the disease and allows a person to sleep. The problem is that it is in very short supply. New people are getting infected with the disease faster than the drug can be produced. The shortage of the drug has created chaos in the streets. Riots have occurred, people have attacked the drug maker’s buildings and rumors are spreading.
The hero of the story is a private detective named Park. He is a tough as nails ex-cop who is hired to find out if the rumors are true. Is the drug really in short supply, or is the drug company just holding back supply to keep the price up? Is everyone getting a fair chance to get the drug or are some people getting special treatment?
Park has a personal reason to take on the case. His wife has become a victim to the disease and he has seen her slowly falling into the madness that descends on someone who cannot sleep. Despite all his resourcefulness he has not been able to get her even a single dose of the drug and he wants to find out why.
People will do strange things when they can’t sleep. They need to keep themselves occupied. Many of the victims have turned to a very complex on-line game called Chasm Tide. The best players are the sleepless since they can play 24 hours a day. But there is a more sinister aspect to the game.
There are rumors that if you can get to certain levels in the game and unlock certain doors the reward will be that the game will tell you where to find the drug Dreamer in the real world. The rumors are fueled by the fact that the game was designed by the son of the head of the pharmaceutical company which makes Dreamer. One hundred percent of the people playing the game believe the rumors, which makes them willing to do anything in the real world to get hints on how to move forward in the game.
This book is wonderfully written and there are many mysteries and plot twists as Parker delves deeper and deeper into the strange and twisted world of the sleepless gamers. His search for the truth is fueled by the fact that his beloved wife has become one of them.
This is an exciting novel to read and when you are done with it you will never take a good night’s rest for granted again.