“The Sleep of the Gods” is James Sperl’s debut novel. I came across it after doing a search for “apocalyptic fiction” in the Kindle store at Amazon. I had read most of the books that came back in the results, but “Sleep” was something new. It had good reviews, so I decided to try a free sample on my Kindle. This is the genius of the Kindle. I might have tried the book sight unseen – I might not have – but after reading the first chapter I was hooked.
The store follows Catherine Hayesly, a typical suburban housewife raising three kids. As she prepares for a family vacation, she receives a call from her husband, Warren, a Lt. Colonel in the Air Force. Instead of checking on the vacation planning, he gives her a coded message – “The three star hotel is booked. You need the four star retreat.” With those words, Catherine’s life is set on a course she never thought would become a reality. She now has a choice – freeze or flee. She gathers her wits and puts in to play a plan that she and her husband had longed worked on, but hoped never to have to use.
If you don’t want to read any potential spoilers – skip the next three paragraphs. There – you’ve been given fair warning. No turning back now. Here we go.
SPOILERS – What follows is a story told in essentially three acts. In the first, Catherine rushes to collect her children (Josh, Abby, and Tamara) and get to her escape – a yacht named, wait for it…the Four Star Retreat. They head for the open ocean and ride out the impending apocalypse (although we do not know what that apocalypse is at this point). Sperl does a good of unfolding the tale, drawing you in, and giving you just enough detail to keep you hooked. You experience the uncertainty as to what’s actually happening back on the mainland right along with the Hayeslys.
SPOILERS – In the second act, Catherine and her clan are forced to venture back to land, and begin to discover what has happened to the world. They encounter the obligatory “lawless band of miscreants”, but are quickly saved by a band of survivors. In a nod to Romero (although this is no zombie tale) this band of survivors is holed up in a local mall. They have eked out a decent subsistence and seem to be doing well – all things considered. During their time at the mall, Catherine and her family find out about the disaster that has unfolded. It appears that most people have been transformed in to “New Humans”. These creatures resemble humans, and can take their hosts memories as their own, but have to remain in contact with light to live. Darkness is deadly for them. I won’t reveal how they came to be, but their origins are my least favorite part of this tale. It just seems a little – well – “small” as far as world ending events go. They have been slowing converting everyone they can, and generally wrecking havoc on the world as we knew it.
SPOILERS – The third act follows Catherine, her children, and a small band of survivors from the mall as they survive an all out assault from the New Humans, and begin to make their way to what they hope will be safety in the hills of New Mexico. Again, I won’t give away too much, but I will say that the pace here is good, and I found myself devouring the book to see what was going to happen.
Alright – spoilers are over. I really enjoyed this book. Was it perfect? No. For some reason there were formatting errors in my Kindle copy of the book, so the font would change from page to page – sometimes paragraph to paragraph. It was very annoying. Sperl puts forth a very good debut effort, but still could have tightened things up in a few sections. It was a fresh story, and while it sometimes felt like it borrowed from other sources (there is one scene with a bus being attacked by birds that felt like it was lifted directly from “Resident Evil: Extinction”), I thought it did a good job of providing a view of the end of the world that I had not seen before. Overall, I would give this book four stars. I can’t wait to see what James Sperl puts out next.
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