52 Book Challenge: Sleep Donation by Karen Russell

12 Jul


{Proceed with caution, mid-level spoilers all up in this bitch}

Novellas are great. I love them… usually. It is a nice format: more meat than a short story, but with less filling than a novel. You can execute amazing things in a novella. Just look at At The Mountains of Madness. That’s right, a whole plot can fit into a novella. But I think someone forgot to tell Karen Russell that.

Sleep Donation starts out with an amazing amount of promise. It’s in a near-dystopian future where chronic insomnia has become a rampant disorder, plaguing thousands of people and eventually leading to death of not treated. No drugs work. The only thing that does work is a dream infusion–basically like a blood infusion, but with fresh, sweet dreams. And like blood, someone has to donate those dreams.

Our main character, Trish, is a woman who works at a sleep donation center. Her sister was one of the disease’s first victims, and she uses this story to woo potential donors into becoming real donors. This is the backdrop, but the plot is driven by two opposing forces: one good, and one bad.

The good: Trish has found a miracle child. Baby A has sleep so pure, a single infusion of hers can completely cure victims of this fatal insomnia. The bad: a man managed to sneak through the rigorous testing pre-donation and is spreading a nightmare so horrible people are rejecting donations: they would rather not sleep than face the terror within.

But neither of these are as good or evil as they sound. The baby has to be milked to the extreme for sleep. The man is not a villain at all, but was unaware of his nightmare. It’s a race to get Baby A’s dreams to as many victims of the nightmare as possible before they die, voluntarily, of insomnia.

And… that’s it. Things reach a crescendo, and it ends. Just. Ends. We never find out what exactly the nightmare was. Character development comes to an awkward halt. Sleep Donation reads like half of a novel, not like a novella. It’s unfinished, and brutally so, because it was really fucking good. And I’m kind of mad that I’ll never find out the actual ending.


Book 52 Sleep Donation

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

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