Sleepless by Louise Mumford

Stars: hesitating between 2 and 2.5 out of 5.

This book had such promise! The idea behind it was excellent and the blurb drew me in. Even the beginning was rather exciting. I was really pumped about reading it for about the first 35-40% of the book… Then things went downhill.

There were several reasons for this quick fall from grace, at least for me.

First of all, to create a good mystery, you need tension. To create a good horror story, you need to create the atmosphere of constant unease, when the reader and the characters know that something is wrong, but the tension is slowly winding up, like a tightening spring. Or you can have monsters jumping out of the dark and eating your face off… whatever works. The point is, it has to be scary but BELIEVABLE within the rules and limits of the world the author created.

This is were this book fails spectacularly. All the characters, especially the villains, have never heard of the word “logic”. They turn form a group of sleep study researchers into murderers seemingly in the blink of an eye. So the protagonist is asking questions about an apparition she saw in the ruins? Let’s take her there and try to kill her! But we already moved the crazy patient in a different location, so she won’t find anything. Why kill her? Oh, who cares, let’s just kill her anyway because reasons. Not to mention who is the genius that decided a ruined monastery was the perfect place to keep a sedated patient chained to a hospital bed? When you have a perfectly functional remote lighthouse on the island that has the advantage of having a roof and all the walls intact?

Also, the main premise of this book is completely destroyed about 40% in. So the protagonist is suffering from chronic sleeplessness. She can’t fall asleep… like ever. She does on 1 to 2 hours to sometimes zero a night. She’s been to all kinds of sleep studies and tried all sleep aids under the sun, right? She signs up for this experiment out of desperation… Yet not a week into this study, she is told that she doesn’t have a sleep problem. She has an internal clock problem instead. Meaning, she falls asleep between 7am and 10am instead of doing it night like normal people. Really? All the other doctors hadn’t noticed that? SHE didn’t notice that she can actually sleep on weekends when she doesn’t have to get up for work? Find a different job. Work second or night shift and your problem is solved…

The technology itself is explained rather badly. Nobody would give Thea a straight answer about how it works or what exactly they will do to her… yet she goes along it it all the same. I get it that you are desperate, but this borders on stupid.

But the nail in the coffin of this book for me was the protagonist herself. I can (usually) suffer through a bad plot if the protagonist is believable or likeable. Or suffer a bad protagonist if the story is amazing, but I can’t do both.

Thea is the type of protagonist who let’s the story happen to them, instead of creating that story with her actions. She spends about 90% of the story in an indecisive stupor, doubting herself, terrified, or simply going along with the flow. She is dragged from one place or another, from one plot point to the next by other people or circumstances. When she needs to act, she freezes and watches the action unfold around her. Granted, this is probably a realistic depiction of what an average person would do when presented with these kind of circumstances… but I read fiction to escape from reality. I want to read about characters who take action, even if with disasters consequences instead of being dragged behind the train of the story like so much useless baggage.

So I’m sorry, but this book and I had a rather messy and angry divorce and I hate-read it to the end.

PS: I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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