Monday, May 16, 2016

Reading Challenge Book 17: Sleep Donation


Even though my reading schedule has slowed down considerably (this is book 17, but we're in week 20), I'm still reading far more than I have been in years past. Though I'm not willing to admit defeat yet, no matter what, I can chalk up this experiment as a win.

Sleep Donation
Karen Russell

This one has been resting patiently in my Kindle app for two years (I do love that Amazon can tell me when I purchased stuff!), and I finally got around to reading it for this challenge. It is a short science fiction story about a global crisis where people lose the ability to sleep and insomnia kills.

Russell's writing style really drew me in. It squarely puts you into the shoes of Trish Edgewater, the protagonist. Russell's writing is less formal and more familiar, with sections that are stream-of-consciousness, sentence fragments, and snippets of thoughts that leave the reader to fill in the blanks. The experience of reading Sleep Donation becomes personalized by this style, and I truly enjoyed it.

The plot explains itself enough to move the story forward, but I came away from Sleep Donation with many questions. The process of donating sleep is never fully explained. I don't know how sleep is extracted from a donor, if the donor gets any rest at all from the process, or (perhaps most importantly) how a recipient receives a donation. These questions are not hidden away or ignored so much as side-stepped. You're given enough information to understand that sleep donation is a thing, the basic idea of the process, and that there are risks. You're not bogged down with unnecessary details, nor are you given so little information that the story becomes high-fantasy. While certainly an out-of-this-world premise, Russell does a great job of grounding the work so that it feels plausible.

Personally, I have a strange relationship with sleep. Like most people I do enjoy a good night's sleep and the refreshed feeling that comes along with it. I get excited when I can remember my dreams vividly, and I still have a few nightmares rattling around inside my head that I would love to banish to some dark, unremembered corner. I prefer to sleep as little as possible so I have more time to do things that are more important to me, such as work on my projects, play video games, watch movies, etc. I average about five hours of sleep per night, and sometimes I augment my sleep with afternoon naps. I often say that "sleep's a crutch." Sleep Donation made me think about sleep in a much different way.

I'm pretty sure I got seven hours of sleep last night.

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