‘The object of words is to conceal thoughts…’
Worryingly for my close friends and family members, there is nothing I love more than imagining the world coming to a gruesome and hideous end. As a result of this bizarre predilection, I have a massive soft spot for dystopia, to the extent that dystopian horror has become the most prominent genre on my bookshelf. The problem with dystopian novels is that they often rely on a single gimmick to carry the rest of the story. Like the sun never setting, or the whole population being unable to open their eyes or the human race suddenly finding themselves unable to sleep. If all those concepts sound similar it is because they are. It is up to the writer to distinguish their work from the pack and with Nod, author Adrian Barnes does just that by falling back on etymology and jet black humour.
Imagine a world where everyone crawls into bed at night but only a tiny percentage of those people are able to sleep. Night after night after night. Faced with the inevitably of madness followed by certain death, some people take an understandably dark turn. Nod is strange enough, creepy enough and unique enough to stand on its own in the genre of dystopian horror. It certainly contains some of the darkest passages I have read in any book and certain chapters were genuinely difficult to get through. Having said that, the violence and degradation are always handled humanely and nothing feels gratuitous.
The high standard of Barnes writing means that I felt slightly short changed at the end, not because the ending isn’t handled with aplomb but because I could have happily read another 100 pages or so of Nod. Thus, Barnes has achieved that Holy Grail for writers, leaving the reader wanting more. If you only read one dystopian horror this year, make it Nod.