A Long, Long Sleep is a book that I doubted I’d read when I looked at the cover, it just didn’t look like my sort of thing at all. But I didn’t ignore it just because of the cover – thankfully – and I read the blurb. Now, despite there not being much focus on the SF side of things I decided I’d give it a go – after all, it is a very sf-nal idea and I wanted to see what Sheehan could do with it. I’m actually very glad I did because A Long, Long Sleep really hit the mark and delivered much more than I expected, especially from the SF side that I enjoy so much!
Rose has been in stasis for 62 years and, after being discovered in an old abandoned basement by Brendan, is bought back to the world as the sole heiress to the biggest company in the solar system, UniCorp. This is a shock to many people who didn’t realise that the Fitzroy’s had a daughter, never mind one in stasis. As Rose tries to adjust to the present she learns of events during her time in stasis, the Dark Times and the effect that those years had on humanity and Earth, but doesn’t look too deep into the details of those few people she knew in the past, scared of discovering their fates. But she is being hunted by a Plastine, a deadly and near-indestructible killer that will not stop until it achieves its objective…
A Long, Long Sleep is told in the first person from Rose’s point of view, so as expected we know what she knows and see what she sees. There’s a fine balance between keeping the story moving forward and giving enough details about the world in which Rose lives and the times she has missed, but Sheehan just about manages to get it right. I’ve mentioned before that I like worldbuilding in my sci-fi, so not seeing that much here felt, at the start, a little odd. However, as the story progresses the information is there, slowly trickling into the story so as not to overwhelm or info-dump. A good thing too, Rose’s narrative voice just wouldn’t suit that sort of thing. But then this isn’t about the world in which Rose lives, or the wider picture of humanity – this is about Rose, her past and her coming to terms with various facts she becomes aware of during the story.
I think that’s what I enjoyed so much about A Long, Long Sleep – Rose is a very interesting character. Aside from the fact that she’s woken up after 62 years in stasis, she’s got some serious issues going on. Her parents had put her in and out of stasis throughout her younger years resulting in a fragmented childhood that had little to do with the outside world. She changed schools constantly and never progressed as she should with her education, and all this adds depth and feeling to her actions once awakened. One of the more poignant aspects of this is her past boyfriend, Xavier, a boy whom she knew from when he was a baby and her many years his senior to both being the same age. The this is all portrayed is very good, and when the full story emerges the only word to describe it is heartbreaking.
There are only a handful of other characters, both from the past and present, that we spend more than a few moments with throughout the novel – Xavier, Brendan, Guillory, Otto – and it is the last of these that is by far my most favourite. Otto is a hybrid created using alien DNA found at Europa – out of a hundred originally genetically engineered he is only one of a handful remaining. He’s a fascinating character with much about him I liked, especially his personality once Rose learns to talk with him. It’s really nice to see the SF-nal side shine through, adding additional depth to an already multi-layered story.
The story in A Long, Long Sleep is not as straight forward as it may initially seem. Much of it focuses on Rose coming to terms with her re-awakening, but there are other aspects that are hinted at throughout the novel before coming to fruition. And then there is the Plastine that is after Rose and the questions that raises, much of which are once again spread throughout the story. I must admit to being very satisfied with the conclusion here, I thought that everything was done just right, Sheehan never giving too much away. That said, I’d be lying if I said I was surprised by the revelations and answers having figured out the main questions that were going around my head, but that doesn’t take away from the story at all.
With A Long, Long Sleep Sheehan has managed to write a novel that is engrossing, emotional, entertaining and thrilling. I found myself thinking about it when I wasn’t reading it and desperate to read another chapter when I was. This is very much a surprise read for me and one that I am exceptionally glad to have picked up. Highly recommended.