May 13, 2015

Review: Black Moon by Kenneth Calhoun

Black Moon
Author: Kenneth Calhoun
Genre: Science Fiction/Dystopia
Release Date: January 20, 2015 (paperback)
Publisher: Hogarth


For fans of The Age of Miracles and The Dog Stars, Black Moon is a hallucinatory and stunning debut that Charles Yu calls “Gripping and expertly constructed.”

Insomnia has claimed everyone Biggs knows.  Even his beloved wife, Carolyn, has succumbed to the telltale red-rimmed eyes, slurred speech and cloudy mind before disappearing into the quickly collapsing world.  Yet Biggs can still sleep, and dream, so he sets out to find her.

He ventures out into a world ransacked by mass confusion and desperation, where he meets others struggling against the tide of sleeplessness.  Chase and his buddy Jordan are devising a scheme to live off their drug-store lootings; Lila is a high school student wandering the streets in an owl mask, no longer safe with her insomniac parents; Felicia abandons the sanctuary of a sleep research center to try to protect her family and perhaps reunite with Chase, an ex-boyfriend.  All around, sleep has become an infinitely precious commodity. Money can’t buy it, no drug can touch it, and there are those who would kill to have it. However, Biggs persists in his quest for Carolyn, finding a resolve and inner strength that he never knew he had.

Kenneth Calhoun has written a brilliantly realized and utterly riveting depiction of a world gripped by madness, one that is vivid, strange, and profoundly moving.

Black Moon is a chilling dystopian novel that shows the reader what the world could become if sleep was all but eliminated and insomnia ruled the masses. The book's main character - Biggs - is one of the last people who is still able to sleep. Insomnia is taking over the lives of the majority of the world's population - including Biggs' wife, Carolyn. One day, Carolyn disappears into the masses and Biggs has no idea where she went or how to even find her. He sets out on a journey to rescue her and bring her back home. Along the way, he meets several other people like himself, who haven't been turned into the creepy insomniacs. Biggs is determined to find his wife before she's gone for good, and ends up learning more about himself and the world in the process.

This is one of the strangest, thought provoking books I've ever read - and I couldn't get enough of it. It's a little hard to get into at first, but once I was able to get used to the writing style - I slipped into Biggs' world and didn't come back out until the end. There are so many amazing aspects and concepts throughout the novel that it's almost impossible to catch everything in just one read. This is the type of book that merits at least two reads - if not more - which is exactly what I plan on doing. I know I'll re-read this one at least two more times - and that's just a minimum. The world and story line that the author creates are so complex and fascinating that I have to revisit it - one read wasn't enough. I find it really hard to review books like this, because I can't seem to write the right words to describe the story itself, the various aspects within it, and how each made me feel. There's no way my review will come anywhere near what this book deserves, but I'll attempt to write one anyways.

The characters in the book - both our main character Biggs and the secondary characters that we get to meet along the way - are incredibly well written. They all have distinct personalities and quirks, along with strengths, weaknesses, and back stories. I loved learning about each person that Biggs meets in the book - to find out what their story is and how the insomnia epidemic is affecting them. I thought they were all quite interesting and rounded - which is pretty rare for secondary characters, especially when there's more than one or two of them. Biggs is an interesting main character for the book. He's a typical man - there's nothing really special about him except for the fact that he's one of the few who aren't succumbing to the insomnia. Even though he's quite ordinary, we do get to see his character grow during the course of the book. He finds that he has more determination, resolve, and inner strength than he ever knew. I enjoyed watching his character interact with the others he meets on his journey to find his wife, along with the different ways he changes and grows. By the end of the book, Biggs is the same person he was at the beginning - just a better version of himself, which I think makes him very realistic and easy to identify with.

The plot was creepy and mesmerizing at the same time. I couldn't learn enough about the insomnia problem that had gripped the world - what had caused it, the symptoms, what happened to the people who finally gave in to it - I could go on and on. The author did a fantastic job bringing this dystopian world to life using vivid descriptions and detailed imagery. I could close my eyes and see Biggs' world in front of me as easily as I could a memory. The pace was a little slow to begin with, but once it picked up - it didn't slow down at all. There was so much going on at once. Some readers may become confused by this, while others, like myself, enjoyed it all the more because of the chaos. Even though the pace was fast and the story a bit crazy at times, the flow felt natural and effortless to me. Like I mentioned, once you get used to the writing style, you're able to slip into Biggs' world quite easily - at least I did. One of the truly creepy aspects of the story was the realistic nature of the epidemic and how the world basically fell apart because of it. I found it eery because I can easily envision something like this happening in our world today. With the knowledge that this could even possibly occur in my world, I was both freaked out and fascinated. I found myself battling between the two feelings throughout the majority of the book, which is one of the several reasons I loved it so much. As I said before, there's no way I can adequately describe the book or my reactions and experience with it. There just aren't the right words and anything else I write probably sounds confusing and doesn't make sense to those who haven't read the book themselves. Overall, this was one of the most speculative and mesmerizing novels that I've read and it deserves several re-reads, which I fully intend on doing. I very highly recommend it to fans of science fiction and dystopias, along with readers who enjoy fantasy, speculative fiction, thrillers, and horror novels.

   *Disclosure: I received a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review through the Blogging for Books Program.*

1 comment:

  1. I read this earlier this year and it was a good book. I had some reservations about the wrap-up of the story. There were no resolutions to some things, but I found it hard to put down. I gave it 4 stars. Glad you enjoyed it and great review!