Title: Sleep Donation
Author: Karen Russell
Publisher: Atavist Books
Publication Date: 3-25-14
Genre: Adult, Literary Fiction, Sci-Fi, Dystopia
Source: ARC kindly provided by publisher/NetGalley in exchange for honest review
A crisis has swept America. Hundreds of thousands have lost the ability to sleep. Enter the Slumber Corps, an organization that urges healthy dreamers to donate sleep to an insomniac. Under the wealthy and enigmatic Storch brothers the Corps’ reach has grown, with outposts in every major US city. Trish Edgewater, whose sister Dori was one of the first victims of the lethal insomnia, has spent the past seven years recruiting for the Corps. But Trish’s faith in the organization and in her own motives begins to falter when she is confronted by “Baby A,” the first universal sleep donor, and the mysterious “Donor Y.”
“It is a special kind of hopelessness, says our mayor, to be evicted from your dreams.”
I’ve never read anything by Karen Russell before, but she’s a very good and well-known author, so when I saw that Sleep Donation was available on NetGalley, I knew that I had to read it. Usually I’m not a fan of short stories because I have trouble connecting to the characters and plot in such a quick amount of time, but Russell’s 110-page creepy story was the perfect length and something that will stay with me for a long time.
One of the reasons I really enjoyed Sleep Donation was because of how relatable it was compared to a lot of the other dystopian-like societies I’ve seen in books. Insomnia is already such a big problem, specifically in America, and every year more and more people are starting to suffer from it. Sleep Donation‘s world of rampant incurable insomnia hit scarily close to home. It isn’t hard to imagine a future in which that kind of problem is a reality. Although Russell’s science behind the sleep donation isn’t explained in detail, the idea of a nonprofit organization going around trying to convince people to donate their sleep is a very realistic scenario because of how comparable it is to the blood, organ, hair, etc. donations that are quite common today for many different diseases and disorders.
Besides enjoying the captivating setting and plot of this story, the characters themselves seemed to pop off the page for me. They were all quirky and different, and so real. While I didn’t personally relate strongly to the main character, it wasn’t hard to identify with her plight and sympathize with all of the emotions that are attached to her lifestyle and the work that she does. I also really enjoyed Baby A’s parents. It was interesting to see the different dynamics at play there…with one of the parents very adamant about the importance of sleep donation, and the other very against it for understandable reasons.
The ending of the novella was interesting, too. I’m having trouble not thinking about it and wondering what I would’ve done in Trish’s shoes. Part of me admires her character and the other half disagrees with her a lot. Sleep Donation definitely gets you to consider your own morality and how you would approach certain problems, and the realistic nature of an insomnia epidemic helps spur your imagination.