ARC Review: The Sleepless


The Sleepless by Victor Manibo

The Sleepless is Victor Manibo’s debut novel, a smart noir mystery set in a near-future Manhattan where a segment of the population has lost the ability to sleep, through a pandemic of unknown origin. 

Sometime in the 2030s the world experienced a pandemic, the main symptom of which is that people impacted no longer needed to sleep. At first panic spread around the world as lockdowns and testing of the Sleepless got underway. No one knew, or yet knows, how the pandemic spread, but over time up to a quarter of the world’s population came out as Sleepless. 

Over time, as it seemed that the Sleepless suffered no other effects than the lack of need for sleep, panic and prejudice subsided, or at least went underground. Still, the Sleepless were different from the “normies”, able to work longer hours, make more money, buy more things. Some began to envy the Sleepless and wish they could  become Sleepless themselves.

Now, in 2043 we find journalist Jaime Vega, a prodigy of Simon Parrish, founder of C+P Media, one of the leading news and investigative journalism firms of the day. Jaime has recently broken up with his girlfriend Hannah. She finds he’s been too distant, even forgetful. He’s deep into an investigative piece for his boss when the book starts, pulling an all-nighter to do research on the story. Which isn’t a problem for him, since he is Sleepless. Walking into the office the next day he discovers Simon dead at his desk, an apparent suicide. But something tells Jaime this is no suicide.

From that beginning Manibo peels back the layers. Chapter by chapter we learn more about Jaime and how he became Sleepless, about the Sleepless pandemic, about the pending corporate takeover of C+P, about Simon and what he was up to in his last days, about Elliott, Jaime’s Sleepless  coworker, and about the extremist organizations and corporate interests pushing their own undercover Sleepless agendas. Things are not what they seem at first.

Manibo has built a wonderfully realistic near-future world, and his descriptions of it are well done. It’s filled with tablets that do holo projections, metaverse experiences delivered through visors and full body suits, strength enhancing exoskeletons called x-frames and other neat tech. The people in Jaime’s world are mostly single New Yorkers, young urban professionals who dabble in various drugs and diverse sexual couplings. It’s as if the world of Minority Report collided with the world of Russian Doll, and it’s fascinating and a lot of fun to contemplate.

The story itself is a slow burn. Clues to the mystery at the heart of the story build in a satisfying way, but the pacing bogs down in the middle. And when the payoff finally comes it isn’t as clean or as satisfying as I’d hoped it would be. 

Manibo is a queer Filipino immigrant living in New York and he’s populated the book with a set of diverse characters, starting with Jaime, a bisexual Filipino American. While I loved that aspect of the book, I was not so fond of the repeated drug use and references to “oxy”. 

RATING: Four Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

NOTE: I received an advanced copy of this book from Erewhon Books and NetGalley, and am voluntarily providing this review.

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Title: The Sleepless

Author: Victor Manibo

Publisher: Erewhon Books

Publish Date: August 23, 2022

ISBN-13: 9781645660460

Publisher’s List Price: $27.95 Hardcover (as of 07/2022)