From the author of the New York Times best seller Swamplandia, and finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, an imaginative and haunting novella about an insomnia epidemic set in the near future.
A crisis has swept America. Hundreds of thousands have lost the ability to sleep. Enter the Slumber Corps, an organization that urges healthy dreamers to donate sleep to an insomniac. Under the wealthy and enigmatic Storch brothers the Corps' reach has grown, with outposts in every major US city. Trish Edgewater, whose sister Dori was one of the first victims of the lethal insomnia, has spent the past seven years recruiting for the Corps. But Trish's faith in the organization and in her own motives begins to falter when she is confronted by "Baby A" the first universal sleep donor, and the mysterious "Donor Y".
Sleep Donation explores a world facing the end of sleep as we know it, where "Night Worlds" offer black market remedies to the desperate and sleep deprived, and where even the act of making a gift is not as simple as it appears.
©2014 Karen Russell (P)2014 Karen Russell
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"Good Idea not executed"
The idea of the story captured me, but this was not a fun journey. The protagonist was too whiny- I could not relate to her or her decisions. Some of the logical things you would expect to hear about within the story never came to fruition. And the story end was not only unsatisfactory but also ended with a kind of cliff hanger. Also the reader was not up to the standards of a typical audio book reader. And totally missed the boat when it come to proper word emphasis. Example: what I thought was incomplete sentences was in reality Chapter headings.
"intriguing idea, but a disappointing execution"
Sci-fi and fantasy generally do not interest me, but being a chronic insomniac, I was immediately grabbed by the title of this novella. I wanted to love it. I did love the idea of a pandemic of insomnia that is killing millions; finally, scientists have learned how to extract the essence of pure sleep from the uninfected, and the purest comes from infants. No one knows if taking their sleep from them is damaging. That's about as far as this novella goes (sorry, spoiler!) and that just wasn't far enough to satisfy me. Nice beginning, tho.
"Clever Insomnia Epidemic Diary"
Trish, a Sleep Corp Recruiter, searches and secures good dream donations for those suffering from terminal insomnia. The style is more of a diary entry or report from her singular, almost detached point of view. Fantastic idea is filled with scientific explanations and a mysterious Baby A donating blissful sleep to the needy and Donor Y spreading nightmares.
Short and simple recount is filled with rich analogies; admired her ability to paint a picture with just a few words (e.g. "he wrote his name on the donor form in small upper case print as if he was shouting through a window, turning into a whisper"). Missing was a strong connection to Trish; other characters to relate to; deeper exploration of themes; and a more fashioned ending. I'm happy I listened to this beautiful, melancholy dream, but it could have been better. I would try another book by Russell, and may check out the much hyped, "Swamplandia" book.
"Good story, terrible reader"
The story itself is quite good, but the narration really lets it down. It reminds me of small children reading out loud, hesitant, choppy, the occasional wrong emphasis. There is almost no attempt to make the voices distinct, which makes it difficult to know which character is speaking.
I've seen Gerwig in films and she is a talented actress, so it seems odd that the skills don't carry over.
"I recommend this for donors and fundraisers alike"
I think a lot of people will pick up this novella thinking it is science fiction, and be disappointed. It does take a bit of current science (lots of people nowadays have trouble sleeping, need to take sleep aid drugs) and extrapolates (what if all the sleep aid drugs stopped working and people started dying due to lack of sleep?) but that extrapolation goes in a completely unexpected direction.
Most scifi authors, given this premise, would spend a lot more time delving into the changes that such a “sleeplessness epidemic” would cause, such as changes to the economy or society. One book that did a pretty good job with the same concept is “Sleepless” by Charlie Huston.
But it turns out that “Sleep Donation” is more about the “donation” part of the title than it is about “sleep.” Anyone who is a professional fundraiser (my chosen profession for the past 30 years) will immediately recognize that this novella is, in fact, an insightful examination of the culture of philanthropy in this country.
The main character, Trish, works for a nonprofit where she recruits people to donate their healthy sleep in order to keep those affected with sleeplessness alive (Trish = fundraiser/major gifts officer). She tells the tragic, true story of the death of her sister over and over to convince others to donate (think of the campaigns used by those charities that want you to sponsor kids in third world countries which feature photos of starving, sick or deformed children). She discovers her bosses are not using the donations for their intended purpose (a violation of Fundraising Ethics 101). Trish is faced with two decisions: Should she continue to exploit the memory of her sister’s death to produce new donations for her nonprofit? Should she expose the fraudulent use of the donations, which could make people to stop donating, thereby indirectly causing some of the sleepless to die? (A clear parallel to recent criticisms of agencies accused of misusing donations they received for Hurricane Sandy or the earthquake in Haiti).
I have never read a novel that dealt with these issues before, and I was fascinated. Nonprofit and fundraising professionals, already familiar with such professional ethical dilemnas, will appreciate thinking about them in a new context. The general public, or at least anyone who has ever made a donation to a nonprofit, will gain a greater understanding of the complex issues that lie behind the business of philanthropy and donations.
[I listened to this as an audio book read by Greta Gerwig, who did a very good job. Unfortunately, as others have noted, the editing of her performance should have allowed a beat or two of silence at the end of each chapter, but this is something I easily ignored.]
"Engaging future world but banal morality tale"
Really enjoyed the future world of possible viral threat, a little sketchy association of the cause of that threat based on society's lapse into technology, and a very disappointing resolution of this banal morality tale.
"Quit by chapter 20"
People who need help sleeping...?
Getting a better narrator.
Idk, didn't finish.
I wanted SO BADLY to like this novel........but instead, I didn't finish it. I just couldn't bring myself to bother. I am very let down.
What annoyed me about this audiobook, mainly, was the narrator. The actress Greta Gerwig, was a huge detraction in this endeavor. She reads in a stilted, choppy manner, rather like the forced readings of teens in English class, where you don't want to sound like you're enjoying it at all. Or, maybe just hate forced readings. Gerwig is completely monotone. It's driving me crazy.
There were no breaks between the end of the chapters, before the title of the next chapter, or the next chapters words itself. It made it sound like sudden run-on sentences. She was unable to differentiate between different characters, and make them sound the slightest bit different. In fact, her boss Rudy's voice was just louder, not different.
Also, the editing sucked. There were discernible quality issues, where you can tell that the narrator was taped at another time and it was added in later. It happens every so often in the audiobook, and It was noticeable, and weird.
The author's way of writing her sentences, peppered with commas, instead of ending them all together, is also sort of juvenile. I've read Russell's other novel Swamplandia, and I don't remember this happening there. It's like she has become allergic to conjunctions as well as periods. Then, there are the weirdly unnatural similes:
"Genevieve Hughes eyes are like empty bowls that you want to fill with food." Seriously....? NO....... Please don't.
Another character (a boss, Jim), was described as having been a theater Midwestern major in college, so "it means he underscores statements he actually does believe with the gayer accents."
Well, I think this is uncalled for, and just rude.
So now I'm on chapter 16. Not much has happened, and I'm bored. The narrator's soporific tone is making it difficult to do anything. I may have to quit, soon.... I have hit a snag of sorts with Russell's writing that reminded me of why, despite the hoopla that surrounded it, her "Swamplandia!" failed to stack up for me in the same way. Russell's writing overreaches at times. I think that it can easily pass as being condescending to the reader. I mean, I'd like to think I'm a well-read person, someone with a more than average/decent vocabulary. But the ones she's chosen to use as her adjectives of choice, like 'chitinous' shell of sarcasm.....or the actual 'ungulate'? Or 'nacreous' skin? WE GET IT. You're REALLY smart and you have the vocabulary to prove it. Stop showing off, maybe....? That's it, I'm bailing at chapter 20.
In summary, this book.......It's just weird for me. There seems to be this disconnect of sorts in liking the characters, and I think maybe if she would just get out of her own way a little bit (or have an editor to address this issue with her). Perhaps I'm the only one to feel this way about Russell's work, but I doubt it, publishing darling that she is. I just think if she would lose hold on her tendencies to overreach with all those descriptions of hers, then her books would be that much better. Unfortunately, after this novel I'm not so sure I'm willing to find out.
Also, I'm kind of angry I have spent so much money on the audiobook version of this novel. Money is tight in this family, with me not able to work right now. I had heard such great things about it, and now I'm done with it, and probably for good. This is no buèno.
2 faint stars, not recommending the audiobook unless you are an insomniac, needing someone monotonous to read you to sleep.
"Unique and interesting"
This was a very interesting story. No action, no gore, no ethical and moral conflicts, none of the things that normally make me unable to unplug and audiobook were present here. Sleep donation is a story that made me work to understand exactly what had happened and where it was going.
This is an aloof account of Trish a Sleep Corp Recruiter. Who's job it is to seek out and secure dream donations that can be given to those suffering from the insomnia epidemic. Allowing them to live just a bit longer until it is time for another donation.
I really wanted to feel invested in the story. I really wanted to connect to some of the characters. I just couldn't get there.
If you are looking for a unique and quick read / listen. You don't care if you like it or hate it, as I am sure most will feel one way or the other. Have a sense of adventure. You should check Sleep Donation out.
Audiobook provided for review by the publisher.
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"Short alternate present"
The narrator didn't exactly detract, but there is NO pause between the last word of a chapter and the title of a new one. As this is a story with a lot of chapters, it turned out to be very, very annoying.
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