four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
46-May-June-2010
user_rating: 
0

A-SleeplessGenre-bending Charlie Huston has made a name for himself with quirky, grotesque SF/horror/noir mash-ups that include Caught Stealing (from the Hank Thompson series), Every Last Drop (from the Joe Pitt vampire series), and the Edgar-nominated The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death ( 3.5 of 5 Stars Mar/Apr 2009). In Sleepless, there's no rest for the weary.

The Story: "Sleepless," a virulent prion-based disease (think Mad Cow, but worse), has ravaged ten percent of the population, leaving victims to endure absolute and tormenting insomnia before killing them within months. In a near-future Los Angeles, Parker Haas, an undercover drug agent, helplessly watches his afflicted wife suffer while he cares for their small daughter. Hoping to use his connections to track down Dreamer, a drug that offers temporary respite from the disease, Haas enters a bizarre, desperate world of online role-playing games, where "total insomnia becomes a virtue" and sweet distraction from sleeplessness is more valuable than gold. Lurking in the shadows is Jasper, a killer only too happy to cash in on the Apocalypse.
Ballantine. 368 pages. $25. ISBN: 9780345501134

Denver Post 4.5 of 5 Stars
"With prose and characters sharply crafted, Charlie Huston immerses us in his well-imagined, hopeless hell and, against all reason, makes you wish for a happy ending. ... He is a standout young voice in what might be considered the genre of crime fiction, but his writing is simply too good to be genre-constrained." Robin Vidimos

Fantasy Book Critic 4.5 of 5 Stars
"In his previous books, Charlie Huston established himself as a writer of incredible talent, vision and imagination. In Sleepless, the author is better than ever, delivering a novel that not only displays his mastery over characters and dialogue, but also shows off his versatility, including the ability to challenge readers cerebrally while also pulling on their heartstrings." Robert Thompson

Agony Column 4 of 5 Stars
"Sleepless is one of those science fiction novels where the future gets to do double duty, where our world, so confusing, so chaotic, blends into our nightmares. ... Huston has a real knack for creating a realistic noir future that's not like much else out there." Rick Kleffel

Las Vegas Weekly 4 of 5 Stars
"Huston established himself as a prolific author and original storyteller years ago, but Sleepless proves he's a dead-on social satirist. The humor hits too close to home to qualify as ‘laugh-out-loud,' but for a book that literally gave me nightmares, it was a hell of a good time." Smith Galtney

New York Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Why stop at adapting genre conventions when you can re-invent the whole genre? That seems to be Charlie Huston's modus operandi in Sleepless ... , a traditional police procedural neatly tucked into a stunningly original work of speculative fiction." Marilyn Stasio

Critical Summary

Readers pigeon-hole Charlie Huston at their peril. The only certainties about Huston's work are his penchant for deeply weird and flawed characters (Hank Thompson is a failed baseball player with some addiction issues and remarkably bad luck; PI Joe Pitt is a New York vampire ...) and his deliciously warped sense of humor. And few genre novelists are as literary ("writing ... simply too good to be genre-constrained," praises the Denver Post). With back-to-back hits in The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death, a novel featuring a crime-scene cleanup crew, and Sleepless, Huston's audience keeps growing--with good reason. See also: Elmore Leonard, Stephen King (The Stand), Cormac McCarthy (The Road), Duane Swierczynski, Victor Gischler, and Jason Starr.