review of Black Moon by Kenneth CalhounThe old adage that ‘no one ever died from lack of sleep’ is cer­tainly put to rest in Ken­neth Calhoun’s riv­et­ing debut novel Black Moon. The book’s premise: a vir­u­lent and appar­ently incur­able insom­nia has taken hold of human­ity. Only a tiny per­cent­age of the pop­u­la­tion is still able to sleep while every­one else prowls the sleep­less days and nights like deranged and vio­lent zom­bies. The sight of those with the abil­ity to sleep dri­ves the chron­i­cally wake­ful into vicious rages; in one brief, har­row­ing scene, a mob fells a tree in order to get at a girl who has been spot­ted asleep in its branches.

Oth­ers take pre­cau­tions to pro­tect them­selves from loved ones who are becom­ing increas­ingly unhinged.

Biggs, who is one of the few able to sleep, ends up tying his delu­sional, sleep-​deprived wife to a chair lest she harm him or her­self. A one point, des­per­ate for a safe place to sleep, Biggs takes refuge on the ledge of a high­way bill­board whose ad cam­paign he designed himself.

Another of the ‘sleep-​abled’ is Lila, who wan­ders the grim land­scape of non-​sleepers wear­ing a school mascot’s giant owl mask, peer­ing out at the car­nage after her own par­ents have gone insane. Oth­ers, like Chase and Jor­dan, try to turn a profit out of the plague by steal­ing a huge quan­tity of sleep­ing pills.

Calhoun’s writ­ing is pow­er­ful and poetic and, at times, darkly com­i­cal, as when Chase’s overindul­gence in erectile-​dysfunction pills leads to an insa­tiable hard-​on.

Beyond being a tale about the break­down of humanity’s col­lec­tive san­ity, Black Moon is also an ode to dreams, both the magic and splen­dor of the dream world and the hor­ror that man­i­fests when dream­ing begins to intrude upon real­ity to the point where the two become indistinguishable.

A haunt­ing and com­pelling read and, yes, one worth los­ing some sleep over.

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