Sleepwalking - by Daniel Barnett
Updated: Jan 7
If you’ve read any of my previous reviews of Daniel’s work, you’ll know that his track record has been exemplary in the eyes of this reviewer. His previous two entries to his Nightmareland series both scored straight up 5 stars out of 5, both Nightfall and Lullaby delivered wonderful entries into Daniel’s world. The violence, when it came, was brutal, raw, and devastating. The Character work was solid, the world-building intriguing.
With Sleepwalking, the plotting of Barnett begins to make more overall sense, revealing the larger picture of what is in store for us, and looking back over the three books, Daniel’s intentions become a little clearer. With Nightfall, he introduced us to the main character, John, a hard no-nonsense MC that we fell in love with, dazzled by the premise and the voice Barnett brought to the fore. The book had John stamped all over it, and it’s a great introduction to the series.
Next came Lullaby, and with it a smack to the senses in the early stages of the book, with a traumatic event putting John right out of the picture, and furthermore, injuring him, throwing the spotlight on Mariah and watching her cope with an incapacitated John, and the pressures of an endless desert. The focus here was crucial, we had to like her, and feel for her in her struggle, and Daniel achieved that in spades. Now we have another MC to root for, one that is more empathetic than John. What she lacks in physical body strength she makes up for in commitment, inventiveness, and intelligence. We know that with Mariah behind the wheel, she will find a way. Also - she's not fallible - that's crucial, we all make mistakes. Here, we see that in play. Mariah questions herself but does the best with what she has at that moment in time.
Bringing us to the third installment - Sleepwalking, where the stakes are raised even more, with the main focus playing on the third of our trio, Marcos, a deaf teenager, immune to the lullaby devastating the planet. His fragility, his inherent goodness, and the need to look after others bring worth to the fore. By worth, I mean decency, Marcos almost represents what John and Mariah fight for – the right of a normal, decent human being to live. Whilst we can root for John, need him to be the rock of the story, and we can empathize with Mariah, and be proud of all she has been through and everything that will come, with Marcos we find our underdog, the link we have to protect, and nurture, and be astounded at the man that grows from him. Marcos is living his trauma, ascending and maturing. Without John’s physicality, without Mariah’s intelligence, Marcos plays everything from his heart, wears it on his sleeve, and steals our own. With Marcos, we see a character arc, we see development, we see pain turned into growth and experience. We see ourselves.
The character building is perfect - Marcos' history, the glimpses of his life he shares with us, it’s all gold. The attention to detail Daniel delivers, such as the care Marcos gives to his fingers and hands because they are his voice, is exquisite. I just know that at some time in the future, Marcos’ hands are going to receive trauma – the ground-laying here also brings with itself the echoes of foreshadowing. Mark my words, dear future reader - fingers are going to break.
In Sleepwalking, the villains are all human, the left-over detritus of humanity, yet - here again, Daniel has sown the elements of what will come. With humanity succumbing to the dream state and dying, their nightmares are being released to live on the earth. Everything that can be dreamed, can be encountered. And encounter it we will, of that I am sure.
I’m in for the whole ride. Barnett’s series is extraordinary. Buy them all. They just keep getting better and better, though now all we need is a dog.
5 out of 5 ⭐ ‘s, and flashlighters – the fourth book in the series – is making come-to-me eyes on my kindle. I’m not even going to put up a fight.
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