The below is my flash review of the horror novel Nod by Adrian Barnes. Additional context involves the author being diagnosed as terminally ill shortly before publication, which gives the novel added pathos. See below;
Very solid post apocalyptic fare here – well paced, with a unique central hook of the world suddenly being unable to sleep and the horrible degradation of body and mind that happens thereafter. The book is brisk, but never feels rushed.
The protagonist, Paul, is a great character, showing humour and a can-do attitude in the face of a dreadful (and hopeless) future. The main antagonist, Charles, is also well conceived as a man who has benefitted somewhat from the breakdown in society. He carries with him a mix of pity and disgust, but the discourse is all wrapped up in intelligent speech and a good bond between the two leads. Expertly done.
The prose is short, sharp and poetic. And all imagery is uniquely placed and dripping with meaning and skill. The book is easy to read but has a depth to it that is hard to achieve within 250 pages. Dystopia has of course been done to death, but rarely with the central hook being a cessation of sleep and all that entails. It is a smart choice, as it shows us humans how close we wander to horror within our bodies – a few days without the ability to recuperate and we fall apart.
I throughly recommend Nod as a quick, gratifying read for those who like horror and weird fiction. The plot is simple but effective, the characters empathetic, and the horror visceral but within the terrible realms of what ‘could’ potentially happen. The author’s epilogue is something worth reading as well.