THE SLEEPING DEAD by Richard Farren Barber

Jackson Smith is attending a job interview at a high-rise business building in the city when he sees a man take his own life. Further horrific events take place, challenging Smith’s sanity, and drawing on his last self-preservation as he fights to escape the building and the ensuing madness.

The Sleeping Dead is a fast-paced, real-time novella set in a recognisably British town. I read the book in an entire setting, something I very rarely do nowadays. From the start, Barber manages to wring every ounce of tension from the punchy, clean prose to deliver something greater than its parts. It’s fair to say the story isn’t ever going to win awards for its originality, but to dismiss it as derivative is to do the novella a massive disservice. To that degree, reading the synopsis tells nowhere near the real story. There’s a wonderful thrill to the set-pieces, a couple of which I’m sure will stay with me for a long time. Barber writes with verve, and his descriptive prose has an economy which allows the pace to never let up, all of which befit the story. The length of the piece exactly fits the story he’s telling; any more and I feel the tension would have been stretched, any less and it would have felt incomplete.
All in all, if you don’t mind something quite dark and unrelenting, this is a novella I’d definitely recommend.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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