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Sleep Donation: A Novella (Kindle Single) Kindle Edition

3.4 out of 5 stars 309 customer reviews

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Length: 110 pages Word Wise: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

If Karen Russell isn't careful, she might end up pegged as an SF writer. From the fabulist worlds of her debut, St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, to the whimsical realities of many stories in 2013's Vampires in the Lemon Grove, much of Russell's fiction feels utterly at home in the annals of 21st-century science fiction and fantasy. Enter Sleep Donation, which takes as its premise the existence of an America where an epidemic of insomnia rages, kept at bay only by the success of a sleep-bank system in which the happily rested donate their sleep to the ailing. Enter the cast: our narrator/heroine whose sister's death by sleep deprivation powers her own sales pitch to potential donors; a miraculous donor ("Baby A") whose pure sleep provides the mother lode of antidotes; and a "Donor Y" whose contaminated sleep infects multitudes before it's even detected. Finally, enter a less surprising knot of plot twists powered by typical human self-interest (corruption, the profit motive), and the resulting novella depicts a nightmarish world that, but for the simple addition of its central epidemiology, looks an awful lot like our own. Suspend your disbelief -- it's a small price to pay for admission to the allegorical world of one of the strongest and most evocative American fiction writers at work today. --Jason Kirk

From Kirkus Reviews

"One of America’s finest fiction writers returns with an audaciously allegorical novella about sleep deprivation in an age of sensory overload... Russell seems to be having some fun here, using the novella form and e-book format to put creative ingenuity to Orwellian use. The year is sometime in the near future, when the omnipresence of communication and connecting devices, the 24-hour news cycle and other sources of overstimulation have turned insomnia into an epidemic, even a plague. Sleep donors (like blood or plasma donors) can be a godsend for those suffering, particularly if those donors sleep undisturbed, without nightmares, like a baby. In this novella, Baby A is the ultimate donor, the silver bullet, the one whose sleep has universal benefits. (Other donors need to be more closely matched, as with blood types.) Our narrator, Trish, has recruited Baby A through the child’s parents and effectively sells the donor program to them by invoking the death of her own sister due to sleep deprivation. But the demands on Baby A eventually frustrate her father—a more reluctant participant than his wife—and he feels more concerned with what Baby A might suffer than with the benefits for society at large... As the plot progresses, Trish feels that both she and Baby A have perhaps been equally exploited. Those who appreciate Russell’s literary alchemy might find this a little too close to science fiction, but it serves as a parable on a number of levels for a world that is recognizably our own.” (Kirkus starred review)

Product Details

  • File Size: 870 KB
  • Print Length: 110 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Atavist Books (March 25, 2014)
  • Publication Date: March 25, 2014
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00HRGXNQS
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #48,564 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Sleep Donation is the story of an American nation increasingly unable to sleep. We are never told the year, but the cultural references and the dollar sums made it appear to this reader to be in the not so distant future. Rarely at first, but now with steadily increasing frequency, Americans are afflicted with an insomnia so total, that death results. Our narrator, Trish Edgewood is a recruiter for Slumber Corp., the nation's non-profit sleep bank. Through science, sleep has taken on a blood like quality in that it can be collected from healthy donors and transfused to the suffering. As the process is fairly new, and there is much fear about the condition and how it spreads, donors are difficult to come by. Ms. Edgewood, we discover, is among the best recruiters of donors because of her ability to relate the story of her own sister's death. Her sister, Dori, was the first to die on the East Coast, and through Trish's skillful retelling of the events of her death, Dori has become the most famous victim, and the face of the sleep donation program.

It is Trish's gift for recruiting that lands the Harkonnen family as donors, and more specifically their daughter, known as Baby A. It turns out that Baby A is the worlds only known "universal donor", in that her sleep is so pure that all can be helped by her donations. Because Baby A is so unique, there is an incredible demand on her donations. Adding to that demand is the one time donation from a Donor Y who corrupts the nations sleep supply with a viral nightmare that spreads rapidly. It is a nightmare so awful, that many who so desperately sought sleep, now do anything to remain awake, even though it will eventually cost them their lives.
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Got this because I heard the author interviewed on Terry Gross' Fresh Air program, where she was articulate, clever, and humorous. Its fabulist concept, that the American populace becomes randomly and inexplicably infected with a frightening insomnia which causes wasting and death, seemed a likely scenario for our increasingly connected lives. The author handles dialog, which moves the story along briskly, very naturally and fluently, and first-person POV makes it easy to relate to the narrator. Parallels to another puzzling epidemic, its mysterious beginnings. discovery of Patient Zero, and donations from healthy patients banked in non-profit repositories underwritten by aggressive guilt- and fear-fueled pledge drives soon becomes evident, and undercuts the narrative drive. Ultimately it became predicable, and a bit unsatisfying with unanswered questions: Do repeated donations harm the donors? What happens to Baby A? Her parents? Some missed opportunities here to examine political and religious reactions in more depth in response to a crisis, though they are touched upon. Ultimately I came away feeling like I had climbed a staircase expecting 12 steps when it only had 11. That final anticipated step elicits an effort to get your foot up high enough to take that last rise, only to slam down -- it's jarring and a bit disappointing, but you got where you expected.
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"Sleep Donation" takes a few pages to really get going, but once it does, I couldn't put it down. Basically, it's the story of a youngish woman whose job is to cultivate good dreams from good sleepers, and the good dreams are then transfused into people suffering from an insomnia epidemic that has spread across the country. The novella, which could really be considered a novel, explores some pretty dark and profound themes. I feel like I learned a lot about human nature from this book, and through Karen Russell's bizarre, hilarious and ultra-observant lens, it's not only bearable, it's truly thrilling. Five stars for one of the best reading experiences I've had so far this year. I won't soon forget it.
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I'm really not sure what kind of a person gives a star rating based on how a story was formatted as an ebook as opposed to the quality of the writing, but there are far too many people doing that. I downloaded mine to my Kindle Fire HDX and it was perfectly readable, but even if it hadn't been I would have found a different way to read it before I gave it any kind of review.

Before I realized it this novella had captured my imagination in a very subtle and intriguing way. She slowly built this world of people who can't sleep and people who are afraid to sleep, this character starting to doubt something that she's always been so invested in, and explored how people respond and make decision in difficult situations. It's a very relevant story despite it's unlikely premise, and while the ending was abrupt, it was also fitting. It was like the story snuck up on me and then pulled away quickly, like falling asleep and being awakened suddenly. Karen Russell is a wonderful, talented writer, and I've enjoyed everything she's written.
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This novella has the intriguing concept of a time when insomnia has become endemic. A human can only live 20 days without sleep, a fact known because of a true genetic disorder that causes permanent insomnia in a small isolated population. In the book, doctors have found a way to give donated sleep from the healthy to the stricken, and the problem has grown to the point infant dreams are mined. The visions of the sleep starved stumbling through the days are striking. The point of helplessness can be shared by those who have visits from this illness today.
This is a stunning book which does trickle off after the premise is established. In the end, the cure is shockingly personal and the despair of the many dulls even the deeply empathetic who try to help.
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