(Nightmareland, Book 3)
By Daniel Barnett
Available: October 2020
The latest volume in the Nightmareland books is the most developed yet, further setting the expansive stage for what’s to come over the next couple years (?) from the series.
At the start of Sleepwalking, we add a new character to the main tribe, a deaf boy named Marcos. Immediately, I was reminded of Nick Andros of The Stand; not necessarily because of his personality or actions, but because he’s deaf and this series (coupled by Barnett’s writing style) reminds me so much of Stephen King’s work. Marcos is a sweet boy who dares not make a sound. He’s gone through town and destroyed all the electronics he could find, in an attempt to quiet the mysterious naked, singing boy that has sent most everyone to sleep. And the people that have retreated into their dreams with smiles on their faces? He’s tried to keep many of them locked in the school where an assembly was taking place at the time of the darkness curtain. But watching out for them is beyond taxing. Luckily, he and Mariah join forces and he shows her what he’s discovered so far in this new world. Together, they travel to a neighboring town for medicine to help John, who is sick and asleep (but in a somewhat different way than the others). There, they come in contact with a small group of characters that easily steal their scenes.
There’s Jeffrey, a simple-minded young man who wants to please the sheriff so that he can get into the Love Shack (a motel where Marcos’s mother was employed). He’s clearly dangerous, but also seems innocent. Of course, we quickly learn that is not the truth; he has an important and destructive role to play here. There’s also the two brothers, one large and menacing and the other sly and violent. Together, these three are run by the sheriff, the only true officer left in the town. I can’t really go into anymore about them and how they came to working together (wouldn’t want to spill any spoilers by mistake), but their interlocking storylines are some of my favorites in this series. Their interactions together – however brief – held my interest almost as much as the individual sequences featuring Ernest (the dangerously mischievous brother who became my MVP in Sleepwalking). It actually got to the point I found myself eager for them to pop up into play more than anything else.
So far, my time in Nightmareland has come with very few complaints (and the ones I’ve had were micro). However, Sleepwalking does have one that really put a damper on my experience. It’s hard to say much of anything without giving away important events in this volume, but basically I didn’t like the way we left things with the crazy brothers. Jeffrey’s last appearance also made me feel a bit cheated.
That stretch of story aside, Sleepwalking features many great sequences and reveals. And, as previously noted, the cast is phenomenal and memorable. Also, that ending was downright terrifying! Its cliffhanger left me thinking, “Jesus, now what?!” Barnett drops a lot of suspense on you in those final pages, and I bet they’re going to leave you wanting to jump right into book four. If you’ve read Sleepwalking in 2020 (or are going to), then you’ll have a few months to wait for answers, seeing that Flashlighters isn’t due out until January of 2021 – as such, I think I actually envy anyone who doesn’t get around to this book until next year. At least, you’ll have the ability to jump right back into hell with Barnett, rather than wait around in exhausting anticipation!
Highlights: Expands the world of Nightmareland … provides us new fears in the darkness … expertly written and engaging … the murderous brothers and sheriff … those final pages – damn
Shadows: I was deeply unsatisfied with the way we left things with several characters
For fans of: Dark, apocalyptic worlds … nightmares coming to life … poetic, yet sometimes abrasive narration … Stephen King’s The Stand
Takeaway: Despite this volume having my biggest complaint in the series, Sleepwalking makes a tremendous move forward into Nightmareland and the horrors that await. This a story everyone should be following, eager for more, more, more!
Would I read this author again? Seeing as Barnett has made himself one of my favorite authors this year, my answer is clearly “yes.”