For fans of The Age of Miracles and The Dog Stars, Black Moon is a hallucinatory and stunning debut that Charles Yu calls "Gripping and expertly constructed."
Insomnia has claimed everyone Biggs knows. Even his beloved wife, Carolyn, has succumbed to the telltale red-rimmed eyes, slurred speech and cloudy mind before disappearing into the quickly collapsing world. Yet Biggs can still sleep, and dream, so he sets out to find her.
He ventures out into a world ransacked by mass confusion and desperation, where he meets others struggling against the tide of sleeplessness. Chase and his buddy Jordan are devising a scheme to live off their drug-store lootings; Lila is a high school student wandering the streets in an owl mask, no longer safe with her insomniac parents; Felicia abandons the sanctuary of a sleep research center to try to protect her family and perhaps reunite with Chase, an ex-boyfriend.
All around, sleep has become an infinitely precious commodity. Money can't buy it, no drug can touch it, and there are those who would kill to have it. However, Biggs persists in his quest for Carolyn, finding a resolve and inner strength that he never knew he had.
Kenneth Calhoun has written a brilliantly realized and utterly riveting depiction of a world gripped by madness, one that is vivid, strange, and profoundly moving.
Biggs ran in bursts down the street, wanting to move quickly but without attracting attention. These dark blocks between their building and the ransacked drugstore were sketchy. He moved through the cold corridor of shade, relieved to find the streets empty, except for a few figures, stumbling in the distance like drunks. At the intersection, abandoned cars were stalled in a mad jumble and he had to squeeze through the gaps, pressed against the cool barriers of automotive gloss.
Shops were shuttered. Many had been looted-windows smashed, the shelves inside empty. The sidewalk was gritty with glass shards and spotted with ancient stains of chewing gum. A great splatter of DNA, blackened with urban grime.
He could hear distant wailing and the occasional shout or scream from the offices and apartments above. Protruding from one window five floors up, he saw an elderly man leaning far out over the street, teetering on the brink, his thin arms extended toward the sky. ...
Black Moon's depiction of an insomnia epidemic is disorienting and convincing. These scenes and the illustration of intriguing characters wrestling with the problems of their frightening world would have been enough to create a fascinating read, but Calhoun takes his novel a step further. Perhaps zombie films and novels are so entertaining because their portrayals of people without humanity actually reveals to us what we prize most about it.
(Reviewed by Sarah Sacha Dollacker).
Full Review (906 words).
Though Black Moon suggests an extreme scenario of a world without sleep, sleeplessness is a real problem in the United States. The World Health Organization defines insomnia as a "repeated difficulty with sleep initiation, maintenance, duration, and/or quality of sleep and results in daytime impairment." Insomnia is further categorized into three levels: Transient, lasting less than a week; Short-term, lasting 1-4 weeks; Chronic, lasting longer than a month. It is estimated that 50-70 million people suffer from a sleep-related disorder. Most of them are undiagnosed. Thirty to fifty percent of the general population suffers from either transient or short-term insomnia, while chronic insomnia appears in only 9-15% of the population. This last...
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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