Review: Sleepless

SleeplessBy Lou Morgan

Red Eye, eBook out now, print 5th January 2015

Desperate to pass their exams, a group of students take a drug that will help them concentrate – but the side effects can be lethal…

Lou Morgan’s contribution to the launch of the new Young Adult Red Eye range charts a group’s descent into paranoia, and asks whether we really know the people around us half as well as we think we do.

Set in and around the Barbican complex in London – where I’ve got hopelessly lost before now, so know that Morgan’s descriptions of the complexities of the place, and the less than helpful signage are all too accurate – it follows Izzy and her friends at a private school who know they have got to pass their exams, so latch on to some proffered pharmaceutical help. Taking their friend Tigs’ assurances pretty much at face value that the drugs are harmless – after all, if they’re being sold, they must have been tested properly, surely? – all but one pops the pills, but then weird things begin to happen. Izzy starts to see things, loses track of time, and believes she’s being stalked… And that’s just the start, as one of their number dies…

Izzy and her friend Grey are horror film fans, and that lends the story a post-modern Scream vibe, as the pair realise that there are times when they are either adhering to or fighting against the clichés of the genre. However, as with those movies, that doesn’t stop the scares from being genuinely frightening: some of the visions are horrifying, and Morgan knows when to allow less to be more.

There are a few moments that you have to just accept the conventions of the genre – notably in terms of the comparatively easy accessibility of information on the internet – but Morgan plays fair with the reader and leaves sufficient room for a very intriguing sequel, should she choose.

Verdict: A chilling horror tale that may well provoke a sleepless night or two. 8/10

Paul Simpson

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