In Life After Sleep, a fascinating and very funny science fiction novella about an invention that allows human beings to thrive on very little sleep, author Mark Brand explores the essence of our innately contradictory nature: no matter how much we humans beings have, we always want more, and no matter how potentially good something is for us, we can turn that good thing into a burden of stress and expectation. Remember when we all thought email, computers, and blackberries would lessen our work load? Instead we used technology to ratchet up our hours spent working (and wasting time: Facebook cruising, anyone?).
In Mark Brand’s future world, humans can sleep so much less than ever before. But how do they use these extra hours? Work takes up more and more of the daily grind, along with complaining, virtual clubbing, and hapless coupling. Why don’t any of these characters use all their extra hours for reading? That’s what I would do!
Brand is sharp and imaginative, coming up with all kinds of new uses for technology in this future world, including the aforementioned virtual clubbing, twitter-like friendship following that starts to smell like stalking, and of course the amazing “Beds” that allow instant REM sleep and deep rest — after just a couple hours. Brand artfully explores what happens to the routines and rhythms of daily life in a life without (much) sleep. The trouble starts when amidst all the hoopla over less sleep and more work, the side effects of the Beds start to kick in. Life gets very interesting for the cast of characters in this wonderful new novella from Mark Brand and getting back to enough sleep won’t be easy for any of them — or us.
What is so good about this book is that with all his wild imagining for the future, Brand doesn’t forget that the basic wiring for humanity does not change. Our need to connect, create, complain, and yes, sleep, are not only universal but eternal.