Sleeping Beauties

Rating: 4 out of 5.

You may have noticed that I do not generally review books by very, very popular authors. I mean, do you really come here for me to tell you that Stephen King is worth reading? Likely not, but what about Owen King? Personally, I’ve never read anything by Owen, but I love his father’s and brother’s (Joe Hill) works a lot, so I thought why not give him a try?

A pandemic affecting only women quickly makes its way across the globe. This disease puts all of the human female population into a strange sleeping state and covers their bodies in a fluffy cocoon. If anyone tries to wake them or take the cocoon off, the women suddenly wake and become murderous. But there is one female prisoner in a small American town who seems to be immune, and she also claims to know what this disease is as well as how to stop it. When others in the town hear of her existence, two groups form: one that wants to protect and listen to this strange woman and one that wants to kill her, hoping that her death ends this terrible curse upon their women.

I actually put off reading this novel last year because I didn’t think I could read a book about a pandemic during a pandemic without hurting my mental health, and I’m glad I made that decision. This book was published in 2017, apparently, but it felt like a reimagining of 2020-2021. Aside from the obvious– a pandemic– and the way everyone in the world lost their common sense because of it, it was also the politicization of the tragedy and just general greed and power grabbing in a time of crisis that made it extremely difficult not to draw parallels to the past year or so. After living through the past year I can say that the plot itself as well as the way the cast dealt with the disease is definitely realistic, which made it even more chilling.

This book is…. expansive. The main plot point is the global outbreak of disease, so there are a lot of people involved in the plot and the effects of the disease throw a wrench in all aspects of modern life. I mean, think about it. If all of the women in the world were suddenly in an unending sleep, how many ways would the world change? With such a large cast and a plot that affects the whole world, I could see how this might be a hard book to keep focused and to end satisfyingly. I definitely felt like the book could have been trimmed down. The ending was imperfect and slightly anticlimactic. However, I always find satisfying endings difficult for books that deal with world-changing stakes, so I forgive it. It felt like there were some unnecessary scenes that could have been dropped to make the plot feel tighter, but I feel like I am nitpicking at this point. The book was simply a fun read to get lost in.

I love Stephen King’s characters and the way he dives into the depths of their fictional minds in such a way that makes them realistic, relatable, and slightly unsettling. However, I didn’t feel quite the same magic with the characters in Sleeping Beauties, perhaps because of the sheer number of characters, or perhaps because it wasn’t entirely King Sr.’s writing since it was a joint project. There is also some controversy about whether a book written by two white men does its feminist themes justice. I’m female but no expert on what being a good feminist or ally means, but I didn’t find the novel offensive to me as a woman.

As I said, this was fun… or as fun as a book on this topic can be. I feel like it was an interesting thought experiment that makes for a lot of good discussion. It wasn’t the best King/Hill book I’ve read, but it has my recommendation as a slightly creepy, often violent, but smart read.