Iris Goddard wakes every morning at 5:59 am, flinging herself into a sitting position and gasping for air. This pre-dawn drama is familiar to her husband, Nicholas.
Or is it?
Somnambulist offers readers dual universes — a day world, where the chapters are even, counted by Roman numerals, and life is somewhat normal. In the night world, however, the chapters are odd, headed by decimal numbers, and Iris sleepwalks barefoot through the seediest neighborhoods of Chrome Valley, where she’s entangled with ruthless criminals while relentlessly pursuing the source of the all-encompassing pain that drives her.
In the day world, Iris confronts her son’s elementary school principal over Sammy’s drawing of a wrecked tractor-trailer with odd-looking bodies scattered around it. In the night world, Abdul and Freddie have driven a tractor-trailer across six borders, but Abdul forgot to shut down the freezer unit.
In the day world, Iris tells her sister, Irene, that she hired a private detective to track down the source of her constant agony. In the night world, Iris confronts that source with a savage vengeance that decimates Chrome Valley.
In the day world, Iris tells her son she never wants to hear him utter the n-word, a taunt he repeated when confessing why he hit a boy on the playground. In the night world, its ubiquity highlights the negative value of human life.
In a debased world that could only occur in the universe of Trump and Brexit, Iris walks between day and night, a seemingly helpless victim in one, a survivor in the other. Eighteen-wheelers careen through streets sideswiping cars and mowing down nightclub patrons, spewing death. Versions of the number seven pop up everywhere. Grandmothers quail before psychic grandchildren who grant no mercy. Husbands frantically hide keys and lock bedroom doors. Gunmen mauled and disfigured in death reanimate and chase their enemies while holding their shattered jaws together. Transgender gangsters don wedding dresses and sprout wings of fury. A new designer drug renders users catatonic and functions as the newest street currency. And hulking in the background of both worlds are the bleak tower blocks of the Freeway Five.
Somnambulist is as much social commentary as it is horror novel, creating nightmare scenarios straight from 2019’s debauched global community. Slaughter the immigrants, hate other races, attack those who dare cross matrimony’s color line. Ridicule and torture the gender fluid and sexually ambiguous; indiscriminately fire automatic weapons at will. Rape and torment without regret, except when forced to pay the price even a degenerate society requires.
While the novel is indeed a wild ride, it’s satire as much as terror: Quentin Tarantino in the UK, Once Upon a Time in Chrome Valley emblazoned on a theater marquee. A world populated by Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, Vladimir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Xi Jinping, and the Mango Mussolini of the United States — a graphic, bloody, and vicious living nightmare of the past decade. Dead bodies resemble children’s toys, abused females morph into mermaids, unrepentant abusers dissolve into fiery elephants, all as the tractor-trailer rolls by.
Readers horrified by racially offensive language, inventive cursing, plentiful violence and a plethora of gore should not read this novel. Those unable to glimpse beyond the literal will not reap the rewards of this story. However, those who have walked through their own Chrome Valleys of the shadow of death will bond with this tale, acknowledge it from the despair of their souls and hearts, and use it to press on in the darkness drawn with the devastating accuracy of Andrew Mackay.