Review: “Sleep Disorders,” Mark Lukens

Pros: Fascinating thriller
Cons: Works in a few too many conspiracy theories; some details didn’t entirely make sense
Rating: 3 out of 5

Mark Lukens brings us Sleep Disorders–an interesting thriller. Pest control and lawn tech worker Zach Hughes goes to a restaurant with his wife, Michelle. Michelle goes to the restroom and never comes back, leaving her purse behind. Zach of course is the police officers’ main suspect, and he can’t restrain himself from poking into everything himself. He harasses the people who work at the restaurant until they threaten to call the police. He visits Michelle’s office, only to be told she quit three weeks ago and had said she was afraid of Zach. Now he starts waking up in the morning to find himself fully dressed, with lights on all over his house and the front door unlocked. When he figures out that he’s doing some sort of sleepwalking, he calls his buddy Stan to help him install cameras to figure out where he’s going.

Zach’s mysterious sleepwalking spells are intriguing, certainly. While he has them he dreams about chasing his wife across the road to an abandoned house. When he finally goes there, he finds racist graffiti and a bunch of numbers scrawled on the walls. Given what we later find out about how and why he’s sleepwalking, most of this doesn’t really make sense to me. While I know how the numbers fit into the puzzle, I still don’t know why they got scrawled on the walls, for instance, and all of the obvious explanations don’t really seem to fit into the rest of it. While I also understand what the deal is with the rest of the graffiti, again given later developments it seemed… unnecessary. Hell, in general his sleepwalking for most of the story doesn’t seem to make much sense with the whole purpose of it later.

SPOILER WARNING: Basically, he’s been “programmed” to carry out a mission. All of this stuff seems to be meant to set him up as a patsy, but there’s plenty to do that without all of this excess detail–all this stuff accomplishes is to make him suspicious, thus acting counter to everything the bad guys should want. Also, shouldn’t the bad guys have worried that having Michelle disappear when she did could result in Zach going to jail and thus being unable to carry out that mission? And shouldn’t Zach’s fake psychiatrist have waited until after the big climax to mysteriously vanish from her office? END SPOILERS

Stan is a conspiracy theorist and brings a psychiatric student, Alicia, into things. Stan doesn’t just help Zach set up cameras–he sticks around for a night or two, helps to check out the house across the street, gets Alicia to figure out what might be going on with the sleepwalking, and even calls in a couple of acquaintances who might be able to help. He’s a die-hard conspiracy theorist, but it’s hard not to start giggling as soon as chemtrails enter the conversation.

I found the explanations for the sleepwalking fascinating, even if the details didn’t all add up for me. The climax of the story is gripping. I wanted to understand more about Michelle (she’s an exceedingly flimsy character), and the focus on conspiracy theories was a little eyeroll-inducing. But there’s a solid story in here that was interesting to read.

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