Friday, October 27, 2017

Tried Again: "Sleepless" by Charlie Huston

Heard: Sleepless by Charlie Huston, 2010, download.

I quit listening to this a few years ago and decided to try again. I recall quitting on this book and Crazy Rich Asians when I was cycling somewhat regularly on the Glacial-Drumlin trail south of town. I couldn't get into either story at the time. I also had trouble hearing the narration when wind whistled across the earbuds I was using. 

I really enjoyed two of Huston's series with That One Guy and That Other Guy Who Is A Vampire. I obviously - Oh wait! The vampire character was named Joe Pitt. I think. I don't recall the other fella's name, and I do not want to look it up. This book was pretty decent. But it was published in 2010 and set in an alternate present. So small things are a bit out of date.

Parker Hass is working undercover as a drug dealer for the Los Angeles Police Department. The city, and much of the world, have been falling apart ever since a epidemic called Sleepless has spread. Sleepless is a fatal prion disease that damages the mind and makes it impossible for people to sleep. The sleeplessness doesn't bring on hallucinations and violent outburts, instead Sleepless has more of an Alzheimer's/dementia effect. People forget where they are, what they are doing, and confuse themselves in thinking they are living 10 years ago. The disease is fatal after about a year from first symptoms.

Parkers wife is Sleepless and he worries his infant daughter is as well. His mission is to find whoever is illegally trading in DR3EAM3R which is the only drug proven to help cope with the Sleepless disease. DR3AM3R actually lets the sick people sleep and gives a relief that is otherwise impossible to receive. DR3AM3R is closely monitored and distributed and Parker's superiors is convinced the drug's rarity means it must have a big money black market trade.

Things happen. One of Parker's clients and his business partners is found shot to death at there place of business. Parker recovers a travel drive hoping to find evidence or investigative leads. A hired killer is sent to recover the same drive by his employer and uses security camera footage to identify Parker.

Parker keeps digging. Parker is driving himself and not sleeping. Parker and his wife rely on a nanny to help watch their daughter because the Wife will space out and forget she even has a infant daughter. The killer kills people and tracks down Parker. Parker finds someone with a supply of DR3AM3R.

Parker is not coping well. He has no family left. He was an outsider at the police department and has no colleagues to lean on. His wife has no family or friends to assist her and Parker. Parker's inability to deal means he cannot even say his child's name. He refers to his daughter as "the baby", we don't learn the name until late in the book.

More things happen and Huston, as usual, writes a fun story with plenty of emotion. I like his characters. I think he writes his characters as real people and I want the heroes to do well and the bad guys to be punished.

1.  I think the novel has an Iraq and Afghanistan War influenced pessimism. Written at a time when lots of Americans were in both countries. Parts of Huston's Los Angeles have the same desperate feel as a country at war. There is a strong black market for goods, government services are stretched thin, violence has become a regular part of life for many people, travel outside your own neighborhood is risky.
2. Huston thought out the Sleepless disease, it's spread and effected victims and family members. He has everyone dealing with the trauma on one level or another. People in the early stages of the disease know they are doomed but many - like a reserve Police Officer - keep on working. Family members cope with taking care of people.
3. Huston's dialogue does not have the stops and starts like previous novels.
4. Lovelorn, outsider men are a frequent theme. I suppose that is not unusual but I'm at a loss to explain why his seem so similar.
5. Huston's heroes are generally everyday dudes put into bad situations. Decent men with a love life in peril from outside forces. 

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