“Nod” by Adrian Barnes – Book Review

Nod

Adrian Barnes

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“Nod” is a dystopian sci-fi set in Vancouver, Canada.

One morning, Paul wakes from a beautiful dream to learn that no one else slept the night before. And this happened everywhere, all around the world. Apart from a few individuals, no one sleeps from that day on.

Biology continues in every other way and the countdown is on for when the human race can no longer survice without sleep. Paul however, who still sleeps, must be a sober witness to his world going mad. His wife is losing her mind and everything he once held dear is disintergrating. People begin to turn on each other and factions start appearing. New religions and new theories are emerging; the world is a new and terrifying place. Chaos reigns.

But what of people like Paul, who still sleep and dream? And then there are the children who dream and sleep. They have stopped talking and isolated themselves from the chaos. They smile and play and seem to have a world of their own. What will be their future?

Barnes raises many questions in this novel, and with his protagonist being a writer, he is well placed for some existential indulgence. There are some obscure literary references – not quite enough to alienate this particular reader though I suspect others might find it jarring.

“During my time in Nod, I came to believe that if something can be imagined it must be possible. Want proof? We imagined space flight, then it happened for real. We imagined holograms and they happened too… So is a Rice Christian or a Blemmye or a burning ice cube or a green sun or a widowed scarecrow just some meaningless assemblage of sounds and letters? Or, in some way, are they all real? Wow, I’m really babbling here in Babylon, holed up in my tower of words.”

Overall, I found this novel to be a bit disappointing. There is a lot of potential in the ideas expressed but instead of resolving these issues, they are left completely open ended. I’m all for literature making one think more deeply about the world and our fellow humans and I’m not asking for all the answers to be handed to me. But I feel the novel would have benefited from a little more direction if it is to be regarded as a successful story and not just an exploration of ideas.

Book Review: “Eleanor” by Jason Gurley

Eleanor

By Jason Gurley

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When tragedy befalls the Witt family, young Eleanor is left to pick up the pieces of her grief-stricken parents. And just when it couldn’t seem to get any worse, Eleanor is pulled out of her world and thrown, bewildered, into a netherworld, before being flung back again with terrible consequences. Like Alice falling through the rabbit-hole, Eleanor dangerously traverses the line between the real and the other.

“Eleanor” by Jason Gurley is classified as sci-fi/fantasy. It would be better to describe it as a realistic drama set against a surrealist dreamscape. Sci-fi and fantasy novels can reflect reality as much as a naturalistic novel, but fantasy looks at the world through a prism that promotes an alternative focus. Like walking through a corridor of distorted mirrors at a fairground, Gurley chooses to inflate or relocate aspects of known reality, forcing specific themes and ideas to come into sharper relief. In the case of “Eleanor”, it is the deeply complex experience of grief that thrives in the freedom of a sci-fi. Continue reading