Sunday, June 21, 2009

Book Review: The Little Sleep by Paul Tremblay

There is a certain sub-genre of detective novels that I have always been a fan of, that of the Unreliable Narrator. Something about a private investigator that can't trust his own perceptions of reality, let alone his clients, deeply appeals to me. Maybe it has something to do with the individual's daily struggle to make sense out of the world that whirls about them with little rhyme or reason. Perhaps I just like to see my heroes struggle harder than they have to. No matter the reason, I can not resist drug-addled, psychotic, hallucinatory, or just plain confused sleuths.

I now have a new favorite character to add to my shelf alongside Phineas Poe (Kiss Me, Judas) and Manny Rupert (Pain Killers). But unlike the private eyes I just mentioned, my new found favorite sleuth isn't under the influence of narcotics. He's just sleepy.

Of course, sleepy is a major understatement. PI Mark Genevich suffers from severe Narcolepsy, with occasionally bouts of Cataplexy and Hypnogogic Hallucinations. He falls asleep at random. He has vivid daydreams that seem completely real. He becomes completely paralyzed. In short, Mark not only has no control over what his body does, he doesn't even have a firm idea of what he is really seeing, or simply dreaming.

With these stumbling blocks, topped off with a wisecracking smart mouth that guarantees conflicts at every turn, any vocation would be hard to maintain professionally. But Private Investigation?

Genevich doesn't let his lack of control get in the way of his detective work. Even his latest case, which he takes while in a vivid waking dream, is pursued relentless, even though he's not really sure who hired him, or what the case is about. Not that it matters; with the way Mark works, he's bound to annoy somebody that knows something sooner or later.

Granted, the story itself isn't one of the best plotted mysteries out there. There are enough plot holes and debatable coincidences to keep The Little Sleep from being a true masterpiece. But as far as I'm concerned, the real fun is to be had struggling along with Mark as desperately attempts to sort out the mischief that his own mind is up to.

You never know. Maybe it was all a dream.

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