Reviews for Sleepwalk : a novel

Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Set in the near future, Chaon's latest (after Ill Will) is a road trip through a vaguely postapocalyptic United States. Will Bear is a mercenary who does dirty work for a sinister and mysterious corporation. Fifty years old, with a highly complicated past and living off the grid, he travels with a rescue dog in a camper van he calls the Guiding Star. The tenuous stability of his life is upset by a call (on one of his burner phones) from a young woman named Cammie who claims to be his daughter via a sperm donation made years before. Uncertain whether she is real or AI, one person or many, he strikes up a friendship that awakens unexpected feelings, leading him to rethink his life, to the consternation of his employer. He becomes increasingly determined to find Cammie while outrunning entities who may be trying to help him or kill him—without knowing which is which. VERDICT Despite the sordidness of his life and past, Will is a highly likable protagonist as he seeks a degree of redemption through his growing love for his possible daughter. A dark but appealing adventure of a man coming into himself after a lifetime avoiding identity.—Lawrence Rungren


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Mercenary Will Bear’s illicit missions for a shadowy organization keep him traveling around the country in his old RV, Guiding Star, with his trusty sidekick, Flip, a loyal pit bull rescued from a dogfighting ring. The work requires utmost discretion and so Will has no address, no social security number, no credit rating, no email, no Facebook, and certainly no spouse. He does have countless aliases and innumerable burner cell phones. Whether he goes by Wilder Barr or Barely Blur, he is a “blank Scrabble piece.” Then Will receives a call from Cammie, a young woman claiming to be his daughter via a long-ago sperm donation. While he is still processing that information, Cammie adds that she has 166 siblings, all Will’s offspring. This strange and compelling plot features Chaon’s (Ill Will, 2017) signature imaginative flair and brilliant pacing to create an ominous tension infused with sly wit. Chaon expertly provides vague science fictional notes that imply a slightly futuristic, dystopian setting that further amplifies intrigue. Oblique references to animal experimentation and devastating climate disasters add a chilling tone, but is it the emotional verisimilitude that provides heft. Will Bear is a tender mercenary, a microdosing Big Lebowski whose off-the-grid life parallels his disconnection from humanity. A consummate storyteller, Chaon imbues the darkly comic with colossal heart.


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A mercenarys life is upended by the appearance of his (perhaps) daughter and a series of attendant problems.The narrator of Chaons disappointing fourth novel is a 50-year-old fixer/courier hired to perform petty acts of industrial espionage or [mess] with the results of a local school board election. (The near-future U.S. is mostly offscreen, but pandemics, recessions, and blockades led by hair-trigger private militias are disruptive enough to necessitate such independent contractors.) Billy (one of his many aliases) is interrupted on the road by repeated calls from Cammie, a young woman claiming not only that shes his daughter via a sperm donation made in his youth, but that he has many more offspring besides. Billy is troubled not just by the news, but by the breach of security that allowed Cammie to reach him, and plenty more paranoia ensues. Is Cammie an agent of somebody hes fallen afoul of or a bot? Flashbacks to Billys past explain his various reasons for anxiety, from his mother on down, and Chaon gives his lead an appealingly noirish, skeptical voice. In his earlier fiction, Chaon demonstrated a talent for conjuring dark moods and characters with fractured families, so a dystopian tale that reshuffles traditional stories about midlife crises and long-lost children would seem a fine fit for him. But this novel never quite finds its footing, shifting from backstory to an increasingly convoluted assortment of cult types and mercenaries; it doesnt help that the central relationship between Billy and Cammie is conducted via phone, which brings a chilly distance to the narrative. The technology Chaon imagines is divertinglarge, menacing, farm-protecting robots, suspiciously adorable surveillance dronesbut the most tender relationship is a B-plot involving Billy and his dog, whose travails are sometimes more interesting than the humans'.All the ingredients of a dark speculative tale imperfectly assembled. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Mercenary Will Bear’s illicit missions for a shadowy organization keep him traveling around the country in his old RV, Guiding Star, with his trusty sidekick, Flip, a loyal pit bull rescued from a dogfighting ring. The work requires utmost discretion and so Will has no address, no social security number, no credit rating, no email, no Facebook, and certainly no spouse. He does have countless aliases and innumerable burner cell phones. Whether he goes by Wilder Barr or Barely Blur, he is a “blank Scrabble piece.” Then Will receives a call from Cammie, a young woman claiming to be his daughter via a long-ago sperm donation. While he is still processing that information, Cammie adds that she has 166 siblings, all Will’s offspring. This strange and compelling plot features Chaon’s (Ill Will, 2017) signature imaginative flair and brilliant pacing to create an ominous tension infused with sly wit. Chaon expertly provides vague science fictional notes that imply a slightly futuristic, dystopian setting that further amplifies intrigue. Oblique references to animal experimentation and devastating climate disasters add a chilling tone, but is it the emotional verisimilitude that provides heft. Will Bear is a tender mercenary, a microdosing Big Lebowski whose off-the-grid life parallels his disconnection from humanity. A consummate storyteller, Chaon imbues the darkly comic with colossal heart.


Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Bearing so many aliases that he calls himself the Barely Blur, near-future antihero Will Bear lives off the grid, doing odd jobs for a shadowy organization whose function he hardly knows while tooling around in his camper van with a beloved rescue dog and starting to fear that his only friend is no longer trustworthy. Then he gets a call on one of his many burner phones from a woman claiming to be his daughter. From the author of the PW best-booked Ill Will and National Book Award finalist Among the Missing; with a 100,000-copy first printing.


Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

In Chaon’s thrilling and funny latest (after Ill Will), Will Bear is a man of many names, many burner phones, and a 60-pound pit bull named Flip, a former fighting dog. In an America of the not-so-distant future, Will treats the traumas of his past with a daily microdose of LSD. He needs it: a 50-year-old “traveling agent on retainer” who works for a shadowy organization called Value Standard Enterprises, Will finds people. Sometimes, he’s required to deliver them to their creditors. Other times, he kills them. Due to a worsening climate, the world through which Will travels has begun to resemble hell, a fact which doesn’t concern him too much given his childhood was its own private inferno. But when a woman named Cammie starts calling Will’s burners to tell him he might be her biological father, Will is shaken. He wonders if the woman might be an “Actress? CIA or Corporate Intelligence?” His boss, Tim Ribbons, wants him to believe she’s an artificial intelligence. The moving (and often hilarious) quest to find out who Cammie is and what she means to Will gives this a big beating heart, as does Flip, whose own post-traumatic stress is aggravated by thunder, fireworks, and tequila. As ever, Chaon expertly fuses the dystopian nightmares of technology and crime with fascinating characters who cross a hellscape to find each other. This is his best one yet. (Apr.)


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A mercenary’s life is upended by the appearance of his (perhaps) daughter and a series of attendant problems. The narrator of Chaon’s disappointing fourth novel is a 50-year-old fixer/courier hired to perform “petty acts of industrial espionage or [mess] with the results of a local school board election.” (The near-future U.S. is mostly offscreen, but pandemics, recessions, and blockades led by hair-trigger private militias are disruptive enough to necessitate such independent contractors.) Billy (one of his many aliases) is interrupted on the road by repeated calls from Cammie, a young woman claiming not only that she’s his daughter via a sperm donation made in his youth, but that he has many more offspring besides. Billy is troubled not just by the news, but by the breach of security that allowed Cammie to reach him, and plenty more paranoia ensues. Is Cammie an agent of somebody he’s fallen afoul of or a bot? Flashbacks to Billy’s past explain his various reasons for anxiety, from his mother on down, and Chaon gives his lead an appealingly noirish, skeptical voice. In his earlier fiction, Chaon demonstrated a talent for conjuring dark moods and characters with fractured families, so a dystopian tale that reshuffles traditional stories about midlife crises and long-lost children would seem a fine fit for him. But this novel never quite finds its footing, shifting from backstory to an increasingly convoluted assortment of cult types and mercenaries; it doesn’t help that the central relationship between Billy and Cammie is conducted via phone, which brings a chilly distance to the narrative. The technology Chaon imagines is diverting—large, menacing, farm-protecting robots, suspiciously adorable surveillance drones—but the most tender relationship is a B-plot involving Billy and his dog, whose travails are sometimes more interesting than the humans'. All the ingredients of a dark speculative tale imperfectly assembled. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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