Sleepers II: Book Review

Sleepers 2

Sleepers II by Jacqueline Druga

 Warning! If you have not yet read Sleepers #1, skip this review and come back later.

In the final chapter of Sleepers #1, the survivors are forcibly split into two groups. One group goes to the ARC in the former NORAD headquarters, and another group is left behind on a hospital rooftop. Of course, this left me yelling, “Don’t split the party!” at my eReader, a fairly good indication that I was completely engaged in the story.

Sleepers II opens with the helicopter ride, with Alex, Danny, and Randy carrying Phoenix to the ARC. Though they don’t fully trust the people there, the doctrines state that Phoenix is the hope of mankind, so they make the decision to go. The hope is that a vaccine can be created to protect survivors from the sleeper virus.

This event forces the narrative to split, switching between Mera, Alex, and Randy’s point of view. Mera is a strong character with a strong voice, as is Alex, so it wasn’t difficult to follow their stories. While Mera, Jessie, and Beck fight to survive near Denver, Alex, Danny, and Randy take Phoenix and attempt to thwart the future doctrine that the Phoenix child is critically injured before it reaches the safety of Project Savior.

Alex was one of my favorite characters from the first book. I was glad of the chance to see the world from his eyes, and his actions and his emotional arc were a good counterpoint to Mera’s. Alex is a natural leader and it shows. I also wanted to read more from Randy’s perspective. As a time-traveler with knowledge from the future, his story is doled out in small doses, just enough to give readers a glimpse of what is going on behind the scenes.

There’s no respite from the victims of the sleeper virus. No matter where they go, the parties are discovered and pursued by the relentless, but perhaps not entirely mindless, hordes. Oh yes, it’s going to get frighteningly gruesome. But if you wanted flowers and rainbows, you wouldn’t be reading horror now, would you?

The standard caution for any post-apocalyptic book applies here. Characters you like are going to die. Sometimes, others that everyone gave up for dead survive despite impossible odds. When secondary characters are introduced, some are obvious “red shirts” and I knew better than to get attached. Some are characters who will be critical to future events, and their survival is guaranteed. But when a new character is given depth and emotional weight, and you start to hope they will make it, their loss is crushing.

The author does a good job in keeping us emotionally connected to the characters, new and old. One of the points that puzzled me from the first book — the question of doctrines and time travel — was a cleverly planted lure for events in this second book. Well played, Ms. Druga.

It bothered me that Mera Stevens doesn’t seem to have learned anything. You’d think that spending months running from sleepers would give her a bit more situational awareness. Her refusal to listen or pay attention to others and her childish temper tantrums make it tough for me to like her. Her only saving grace is her protective nature towards her children, whether they are hers by birth or not.

I recommend that you read this series in order. Because of the chain of events, hints and plot points that span over several novels, this book will not stand alone. You have to have the whole story for everything to make sense. The Sleepers series is currently up to book 4, and I’m looking forward to the next adventure.

 

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

Sleepers: Book Review

Sleepers

Sleepers by Jacqueline Druga

Review by S. Kay Nash

 Oh boy. If you’re a parent and you’re planning to read this book, grab a hanky because you’re going to need it. Here’s the synopsis:

A normal spring morning cascades into a nightmare world for Mera Stevens as 1.8 billion children simultaneously fall ill and then vanish from the face of the earth. Her son, Jeremy, is one of them.

Increased natural disasters, onslaught of disease and other phenomena throws the world into chaos as it balances on the brink of extinction.

With communications down, Mera gathers the courage and strength she needs to trek across a dying country in search of a daughter she desperately hopes is still alive.

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 kill everything that moves and stumble on, harried and tired and wounded. The author doesn’t skimp on inventive ways to make the undead stay that way so if you enjoy a good splattering, you will not be disappointed.

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 Sleepers, released by Permuted Press. Most of the things that caught my editorial eye were 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 my opinion of the book or the content of the review. This review was orginally published at www.bookie-monster.com