Review: Sleepers by Jacqueline Druga

Sleepers1Oh boy. If you’re a parent and you’re planning to read this book, grab a hanky because you’re going to need it. Just look at the synopsis–1.8 billion children, gone. Mera Stevens’ son is one of them. The first few chapters are absolutely heart-wrenching.

Mera is certain that God caused the deaths of the children and the terrible storms and natural disasters that followed. She and her husband bury their son’s ashes. They make plans to drive cross-country to pick up their daughter, who is in college in the Pacific Northwest. When their middle son arrives from his military academy on foot and frantic, the full horror of the virus and the events of the previous 24 hours is unleashed.

From this point, the novel is a straightforward zombie survival plot. They run to safety, find shelter and supplies, and meet other survivors along the way. Of course, every shelter is unsafe, they are overrun by “sleepers” and have to move on, harried and tired and wounded. Mera pursues her goals with a single-minded zeal that doesn’t live up to her physical capabilities. Her love for her kids and her will to find her daughter and keep her son safe is her driving force. She relies on the people around her to do what needs to be done, because banding together and cooperating is the key to survival for everyone.

The strength of the characters carry this book. Halfway through the novel, I was ready to backhand Mera Stevens. The character is an alcoholic who doesn’t listen to people, fixates on unimportant things in the middle of a crisis, and will not let anything go. She’s irritating, sometimes irrational, and absolutely certain that her way is the right way. When an author takes a character and makes you want to slap some sense into her, it’s a good thing. Mera is flawed, challenging, and is by far the best character to show us this story from her point of view. By the end of the novel, I was cheering for her. Alex, who is not your typical survivalist, is another favorite.

Things get a little weird when time-travel is introduced. One of the themes of the novel involves faith in Christianity, and the rapture as described in Revelations. For Mera and her son, these events are clearly the work of God. When they become aware that the events are man-made, and the writings of a modern-day survivor have become the doctrines of the future, we hit an interesting paradox. No one wonders if the doctrines of the modern day are survivor’s tales from a different time-travel experiment from 2,000 years ago.

This is the second edition of this book, released by Permuted Press. Based on older comments of the first edition, it’s clear the second edition has been edited for spelling and grammar. Most of the things that caught my editorial eye were colloquialisms in the character’s voice (perfectly appropriate) and some ebook font-spacing issues that are a product of the medium itself. Unfortunately, “Kindle typos” are common enough that I have an acceptable threshold for them. I didn’t have any problem with the few I ran across.

I recommend Sleepers to zombie and end-of-the-world fiction fans who love to connect with strong, well-rounded characters in a tried-and-true survival situation.  Sleepers is the first in a series. The cliffhanger ending is the perfect hook for the second book.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect the opinion of the book or the content of the review. This review was orginally published at http://www.bookie-monster.com

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