What I read this week… Nod by Adrian Barnes
It won’t be long until the winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award for 2014 is announced so it seemed fitting to kick start our new weekly book review with a look back at one of the contenders for last year’s award.
Nod, by Adrian Barnes, was shortlisted for the 2013 award but lost out to Chris Beckett’s Dark Eden. Likened to Blindness by Jose Saramago, it tells the story of an apocalyptic nightmare where the majority of people have lost the ability to sleep. Set in Vancouver, society quickly crumbles as people realise their impending fate: psychosis at 6 days, death at 35.
Without giving too much away, the story is told in journal form through the eyes of Paul, a writer, misanthrope and etymologist. Paul is one of the ‘lucky’ ones who can still grab some shut-eye. Through him, we are able to watch as “The Awakened” slump further into psychosis, many coming to believe that those who can still sleep must be demons.
There are a lot of reasons to like this novel: it pokes fun at its own genre and chides humanity’s weird desire to be titillated by catastrophe, it plays on ideas of religion and futility and comments on the media and our relation to it, calling newscasters “Brazen Heads”*. It is even occasionally funny.
Nod is a story about survival but not in the block-buster sense. There are no heroes, Paul doesn’t suddenly acquire mad bush-craft skills and nobody brazenly drives a motorbike around downtown Vancouver taking out the Awakened with John Matrix precision (or lack of). Instead, Barnes does a very good job of depicting psychosis and the descent of man into a monstrous state without allowing readers to view acts in terms of good and evil.
Here is a short video of Barnes himself talking about the book
*(Of Irish derivation… is omniscient, and tells those who consult it whatever they need to know, past, present, or future)
We will doing a quick, informal write up of things we’ve read each week – if you have any suggestions please let us know! Next up, Dale will be writing about The Unsleep, by Diana Gillon, feel free to read along and make comments. We’d love to hear your thoughts.