January 18th, 2011


No Sleep Till Wonderland

Well, Paul Tremblay has done it again, that bastard. No Sleep Till Wonderland, Tremblay's second mystery featuring narcoleptic P.I. Mark Genevich, is not only as engaging a tale as the first one, The Little Sleep, but a welcome reminder that prose can be art as well as craft. Anyone who's read Tremblay's work knows he's a master stylist with an unbridled imagination, a jack of all trades who's equally at home writing in the science fiction, fantasy, horror, and mystery genres. His prose is so fine, so delicate, that it makes a lot of other writers, myself included, look like drunk, clumsy bulls smashing their way through a china shop. (Me? Jealous? Never!)

This time around, Mark Genevich befriends a man named Gus in his group therapy session. Immediately my mind went into Fight Club mode and wondered, especially after Gus disappears, if the man was real or the product of Mark's frequent hypnogogic hallucinations. Along the way, Mark saves a little boy from a burning building, only to wonder if that too was a hallucination when he learns someone else actually saved the boy and that the police now consider him an arson suspect. Of course, it wouldn't be a mystery if there weren't an actual crime, and so Mark sets off to discover the truth about the very real fire, find out what happened to Gus, and ultimately prove he's not an arsonist. Too bad he was sleepwalking and can't remember much about that night, including whether or not he really did start that fire.

If I have one criticism of the novel, and I only have one, it's that Mark seems a little too aware now of when he's sleeping and when he's awake. In the first book he wasn't so aware, and that made it all the more gripping. It's certainly within the realm of possibility that someone living with narcolepsy would develop the ability to identify when he's actually dreaming instead of experiencing reality, but narratively I did like the first book's global uncertainty of what was real and what wasn't a bit more.

But that's such a minor criticism that it's barely worth mentioning. No Sleep Till Wonderland is an outstanding novel, a worthy sequel to The Little Sleep, which you may remember I named as the best book I read in 2009. Mark Genevich remains a fascinating and compelling character. I hope Tremblay has plans for more Genevich novels, because I know at least one clumsy, china-covered bull who can't wait to read them.