Itâ€™s true. Raymond Chandler and Kurt Vonnegut made a baby. And its name is Sleepwalk. From the first few pages, I was enthralled by author Dan Chaonâ€™s ability to create an antihero of such depthâ€”such longingâ€”that I nearly forgot Will Bear is a sociopath. Yeah. Among his many side jobs, he kills people.
As you wend your way through the backroads of a slightly futuristic America, you realize that the person Billy is was mainly due to his random, haphazard childhood. That and a sometime mom who herself had sociopathic tendencies. Like his mother, when the protagonist takes someone out, itâ€™s not personal. Instead, itâ€™s necessary.
When Will learns that he might have a biological daughter, things get even more interesting as the revelation turns his world upside down. There were times when I pictured the character as Philip Marlowe chasing down clues. Other times, I recalled some of the funniest moments in novels, such as Player Piano and Catâ€™s Cradle. But hey, thatâ€™s me.
Sleepwalk is a hard book to categorize. If I had to sum it up, Iâ€™d say itâ€™s crime fiction with some laughs, mainly at Willâ€™s expense. And like him, the other characters are as real as they get. Truthfully, though, The novel is not for everyone. Just saying.
If youâ€™re into authors who write to market, then this book may not seem like a slam dunk. But, on the other hand, if you give it a chance, I promise it will open your eyes to addictive storytelling that doesnâ€™t play by the rules. If there was a way, Iâ€™d give this book six stars.
Sleepwalkâ€™s hero, Will Bear, is a man with so many aliases that he simply thinks of himself as the Barely Blur. At fifty years old, heâ€™s been living off the grid for over half his life. Heâ€™s never had a real job, never paid taxes, never been in a committed relationship. A good-natured henchman with a complicated and lonely past and a passion for LSD microdosing, he spends his time hopscotching across state lines in his beloved camper van, running sometimes shady often dangerous errands for a powerful and ruthless operation heâ€™s never troubled himself to learn too much about. He has lots of connections, but no true ties. His longest relationships are with an old rescue dog that has post-traumatic stress and a childhood friend as deeply entrenched in the underworld as he is, who, lately, heâ€™s less and less sure he can trust.
Out of the blue, one of Willâ€™s many burner phones heralds a call from a twenty-year-old woman claiming to be his biological daughter. She says sheâ€™s the product of one of his long-ago sperm donations; heâ€™s half certain sheâ€™s AI. She needs his help. Sheâ€™s entrenched in a widespread and nefarious plot involving Willâ€™s employers, and for Will to continue to have any contact with her increasingly fuzzes the line between the people he is working for and the people heâ€™s running from.
With his signature blend of haunting emotional realism and fast-paced intrigue, Dan Chaon populates his fractured America with characters who ring all too true. Gazing both back to the past and forward to an inevitable-enough-seeming future, Sleepwalk examines where weâ€™ve been and where weâ€™re going and the connections that bind us, no matter how far we travel to dodge them or how cleverly we hide.