Sleep Over: An Oral History of the Apocalypse by H.G. Bells


Sleep Over is a collection of short stories from various sources of different people telling their stories about the sleep apocalypse. There are five parts in the story reflecting the stages of apocalyptic event - the first few days, panic, solution, death, and waking. The collection also consists of excerpts from news articles and even messages from random graffiti walls related to mass insomnia. Some new products launch worldwide to take advantage of the crisis, preying on people’s fear. There is also a menu that includes doses of stimulant drugs, probably a powdered drink called AntiWake, to keep insomnia away.

On the day after the first sleepless night, the whole world experiences insomnia. There are massive tweets about mass insomnia, and everyone looks tired and grumpy the following day. No one seems able to sleep on that night before. People tend to easily make mistakes in their work. An experienced projectionist in a cinema makes three mistakes in a day. His colleague is calling sick, the smell of burned popcorns surrounding the cinema, and a stranger crosses the road without looking at the traffic light. In a different story, an office worker tells how excited his or her colleagues about the first few sleepless nights, discussing their sleeping pattern and having sleepovers in the office.

Before insomnia hit, a marketing firm launches an energy drink ad and becomes the first scapegoat. Online users are posting threats targeting their employees. People are burning their product despite their attempt to educate them and showing test results of the drink’s ineffectiveness. In the hospital, many mothers go for early labour. Twenty per cent of the mothers died, and ninety per cent of the babies died unborn.

I really wanted to like this book. It started so well, and I thought this would definitely be a 4 stars book for me. Unfortunately, something is missing from driving me to have the eagerness to read further. I enjoyed reading the different stories from all walks of life, but I don’t know why I don’t have the anticipation of knowing what happens next. The various perspectives from different roles reflect the author’s vast imagination, but the stories are written in a monotonous style. For example, someone who is almost dying should be expressing themselves in a more hopeless and suffering tone, whereas a toddler should have a naive and confused manner in the apocalyptic event. My personal interpretation when I was reading this book is both characters have the same tone. Actually, all characters telling their stories in the same manner. Although the author has a brilliant concept of involving the perspectives from all walks of people in the mass insomnia, the execution of the idea is not what I expected. I wish the writing will be different for various characters to match with their stories. If the narrative style has multiple personalities based on the characters or this story is written in novel style, maybe it changes everything.

Every time if I don’t like a debut story, I felt terrible because it’s the author’s first book, and I shouldn’t be too critical about it. But I’m always glad when I see someone else knows better to appreciate their work. Although the story is just alright for me, I know it’s weird that I will still label this book as ‘memorable’ on my list.

ISBN: 9781940456720 (ebook)
Number of Pages: 320
Rating: ★★ (2/5)
More reviews can be found on Goodreads: Sleep Over: An Oral History of the Apocalypse by H.G. Bells.

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