I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Sleep Over by H. G. Bells
Published by Talos on January 16th 2018
Genres: Fiction, Science Fiction, Apocalyptic & Post-Apocalyptic, General, Horror, Thrillers, Suspense
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Can you imagine a world without sleep?
As the sun rises in each time zone, people around the globe realize that no one was able to sleep the night before. There’s no relief the next night or in the following days. Sleep Over is a collection of interviews with survivors who explain what it was like to live through the Longest Day.
If there had been a great bolt of lightning or a thunderclap, if the earth had shaken, if a blood moon had risen and cast a hellish pall over the whole world, we would have had some event to point to and say “There, there is where the end of the world began.” No dogs howled, no wave of prickling goosebumps swept over our skin, no measurable occurrence registered in any of the things we love to measure. The end of the world began not with something happening, but with something not happening. And because we don’t do well with understanding danger from absence, and most people didn’t know that going without sleep is fatal, the whole world began to die.
No one knows what’s happening at first. Maternity wards are swamped with expectant mothers, as even those tucked inside the womb aren’t safe. Children are among the hardest hit and their reactions are a harbinger of the horrors to come. The Center for Disease Control investigates the phenomenon, but even their scientists are struggling with the effects of sleeplessness. Going twenty-four hours without sleep leaves a person in a state equivalent to being legally drunk. What starts off as a global summer party quickly descends into chaos. It only takes a few days for the established order to break down. Decades-long feuds boil over and a number of international incidents erupt, as governments take advantage of the situation or act rashly due to cognitive impairment. Terrorists and rioters bring violence to the streets. Spiritual groups enjoy a resurgence as people flock to them for answers and absolution.
Stage one is a bummer; light insomnia, coupled with the panic attacks, paranoia, and phobias that develop as a result. Stage two is shit; basically escalation as the insomnia becomes more pronounced, and hallucinations get added to the increasing panic attacks as the body starts to realize just how hooped it truly is. Stage three: you’re fucked. It begins when sleep becomes completely impossible. Accompanied by rapid weight loss. Finally, in stage four (completely, ultra-mega-fucked), people exhibit what is essentially severe dementia. They become completely mute and unresponsive. If no one was taking care of people at this stage, they would die (as if they could even make it to this stage without being cared for). Death arrived from seven to thirty-six months after the onset of symptoms.
The people interviewed are from a variety of backgrounds and countries. Everyone dealt with the situation differently. There are those who tried to keep everything functioning normally, opportunistic people who profited off the desperation for a cure, people who simply did the best they could to keep a routine, and the unlucky ones who drifted into oblivion. The insomnia plague ends eventually, but Earth’s population numbers declined drastically. Could this second chance be an opportunity to create a better world? Will the survivors be able to convince future generations not to repeat the mistakes of the past?
It’s not like there was an enemy to fight. All our firepower, our armies, all our contingency plans, and the closest thing we had to help us were plans in place for influenza outbreaks. But how to you counter a disease (and we didn’t even know if it was a disease) which already had one hundred percent saturation? How do you enact plans when our collective competency was dipping past the point of klutziness and into danger?
I loved reading about how different people experienced a single, catastrophic event! The only issue was that everyone had the same voice, despite the fact they had diverse backgrounds and lived all over the world. I enjoyed the writing style, but my interest in collections like this plummet if there’s not a ton of character variety. The most memorable perspectives were the ones where the voice most matched the character: the internet vigilante, the gamer, the five friends who made a bet to stay awake as long as they could before they realized they didn’t have a choice, and the man who takes it upon himself to care for those who have ceased functioning. In terms of content, I was most interested in the perspectives of those who worked during the chaos: teachers, nurses, air traffic controllers, journalists, scientists, power operators, and the corpse collectors. What happens when even the first responders and problem-solvers can’t be protected?
Certainly, during those times it brought out the best in people, but also the worst—those ugly, dark parts of us that we keep covered up to be able to function in society. But when that facade is no longer needed? When things are crumbling all around you?
How long could you go without sleep? I pulled an all-nighter once in college and that was enough to turn me off the concept for the rest of my life! Sleep Over is so relatable because (ideally) we all spend one-third of our lives sleeping. Most of us have also experienced the days after the nights where sleep didn’t come so easily. The story is more open-ended that I would have liked, but it’s a really interesting thought experiment. The imaginative scenarios that the author concocted show the expected and unexpected effects of a global insomnia plague. The testimonials are sometimes humorous, but always horrifying. Chilling descriptions of the humanity slowly draining from peoples’ faces as the days passed will stick with me for a long time. The horrors and uncertainty experienced during the Longest Day show how important it is to support scientific research in the best of times, because it’s already too late by the time the worst hits.
“I don’t know what all the fuss is about; I finally have time to read.” —On an otherwise blank page on the story wall of Champs-Élysées
Fatal Familial Insomnia (Referenced in the book several times, though it may or not be related to what happened) – a genetic disorder that renders its victims unable to sleep. There’s a nonfiction book about this topic: The Family That Couldn’t Sleep: A Medical Mystery by D.T. Max
Timeline: The Effects of Sleep Deprivation What happens after 24/36/48/72/96 hours of no sleep?
How 180 Hours Without Sleep Affects the Body: The CIA kept “detainees awake for up to 180 hours, usually standing or in stress positions,” according to the Senate’s blockbuster report.
Here’s A Horrifying Picture Of What Sleep Loss Will Do To You (Diagram)
Waking Up to the Health Benefits of Sleep from the Royal Society for Public Health
What’s the Longest Amount of Time Someone Has Stayed Awake?
How Long Can Humans Stay Awake?