top of page

The Sleep Experiment


Jeremy Bates

The Sleep Experiment
average rating is 2 out of 5

Horror, Thriller

R. Alex Jenkins

Two stars because of the reasonably fluid and smooth reading style.

Minus three stars for being vapid and reading more like a self-help book on personal grooming and hygiene and how to behave like cringe-ridden cretins with wooden, stereotypical characters and cheesy dialogues!

The intriguing questions remain, however: Do we actually need to sleep and why do we do it? We don’t need to hide at night from predators to conserve energy, but more importantly, what happens if we get no sleep at all? I think it’s something to do with resetting our brains so that a new and fresher day can begin and allowing our bodies to recover so that we don’t collapse from exhaustion. The book thinks there’s something more sinister at play.

The amount of banal chit-chat regularly got on my nerves, making the main characters seem drab and shallow. There’s the stereotypical good-looking males/females, plus the rather dimwitted and even more stereotypical cohorts from Korea, India and Australia, with their regional traits, accents and expressions. It's really patronising and borderline discriminatory.

The writing often feels loose and frivolous, concentrating on unnecessary character development that has nothing to do with the focus of the story or anything to do with expected tension and horror. The story keeps on switching backwards and forwards between encounters at bars and restaurants, a mix that turns you off more than drawing you in. If you like that sort of thing, great, but it doesn't feel right here. Everyone comes across as overprivileged, spoiled, corny and cliched. None of the characters seem like serious professionals, but shallow people subject to pointless and banal repetition. The story feels more like Starbucks with a romantic twist, better rebadged as a thriller with plenty of fluffy filler.

And then there's the sleep experiment itself, the reason I purchased the book, intermixed with all the boozing, dining and sexing from the doctor who presides over the entire experiment, and then there's his assistants, their own love lives, interspersed with the love lives of their irrelevant partners on top of that, and so on. The book goes down the chute and doesn’t recover.

Worst of all, when characters speak to each other it comes across as distant, static, awkward and wrong. People don’t talk to each other like that, which is strange when you consider the amount of research the author did into technicalities and descriptions, but not into how characters actually interact. I found huge amounts of the dialogue cringeworthy and annoying.

There’s too much focus on pointless activities away from the sleep experiment and not enough action from an internal perspective - I mean, from the people who are subject to the experimental situation and experiencing its potential drawbacks and horrors. We don’t get to feel anything about the experimental rats from their perspective, other than they banter and bicker with each other from time to time. When we get direct action, it’s back to eating out and getting laid.

This book annoyed the hell out of me.

Unlike The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum, for example, which brilliantly makes it work from a third-party instead of a direct perspective, this is 80% about relationships and very little to do with tension or horror. It would have been a better book as a standalone romantic thriller with betrayals and intrigue with a smidgen of disjointed backstabbing, murdering and schizophrenia.

There’s little tension, it doesn’t shock and is far too implausible to be taken seriously. I’ll leave the criticisms alone for now… it’s just not a very good book.

A few final words: Don’t get me started on the lack of forensic evidence. It’s rubbishy and daft.

bottom of page