Name: Sleeping Beauties
Author: Stephen King and Owen King
Number of Pages: 715 (Hardback)
Published: September 26th 2017 by Hodder & Stoughton
Genre: Horror, Fantasy
In this spectacular father-son collaboration, Stephen King and Owen King tell the highest of high-stakes stories: what might happen if women disappeared from the world of men?
In a future so real and near it might be now, something happens when women go to sleep; they become shrouded in a cocoon-like gauze. If they are awakened, if the gauze wrapping their bodies is disturbed or violated, the women become feral and spectacularly violent; and while they sleep they go to another place. The men of our world are abandoned, left to their increasingly primal devices. One woman, however, the mysterious Evie, is immune to the blessing or curse of the sleeping disease. Is Evie a medical anomaly to be studied, or is she a demon who must be slain? Set in a small Appalachian town whose primary employer is a women’s prison, Sleeping Beauties is wildly provocative and gloriously absorbing. – from Goodreads
In Sleeping Beauties things start to unravel very gradually.
The Aurora virus is spreading, causing any woman who goes to sleep to become wrapped in cocoon-like substance, and from that, they don’t wake up. And if someone is foolish enough to try and remove the cocoon? Let’s just say it’s possibly the last thing they will ever do.
Everyday life is progressing in Dooling – the regular mix of good people and bad people and those who fall into that grey area are all going about their business. News of Aurora is there, but never really registering until the crisis is well and truly established and the first blood has been spilled.
But there’s a new arrival in Dooling. The mysterious Evie Black appears under explosive circumstances and soon makes her presence felt, for Evie is different. She knows things about people, despite never having met them before. She apparently has power over animals, who will do her bidding, and the biggest talking point – she can sleep and wake without being affected by the cocoons, which makes her the centre of attention.
Arrested for her involvement in a double murder, Evie finds herself (by design?) incarcerated at the women’s prison, and it soon becomes a battle to keep Evie from falling into the hands of those who would do her harm, for only if she is saved will the female half of the world’s population have the opportunity (if they choose) to wake up and return to everyday life in the regular world.
There’s a lot to like in this story.
The setting for a lot of the book is the women’s prison, which becomes interesting as you consider that all those women, some of unpredictable temperament even under usual circumstances, are trapped together in this hopeless situation where they’re all likely to fall asleep, possibly forever.
Then there’s the magic element, the fantastic Tree surrounded by the animals/emissaries which are the animals that feature on the limited edition covers of the book.
It’s also great to get a glimpse of the place the women go to once they’re asleep, and the life they start to build there.
And of course, there’s the everyday world that the women leave behind, where the men are left to respond to the growing crisis in a variety of ways.
And the characters. There are a LOT, some to like and some to loathe.
I really liked Lila, the sheriff, who does her best to stay awake for as long as possible. And her husband Clint, a psychiatrist who works at the prison and becomes central to the story. He doesn’t set out to be heroic, isn’t at all in fact when the book starts out, but I came to admire his determination to defend the prison and protect Evie as the story went on.
On the opposite side is the loathsome prison officer Don Peters, who thinks he has the right to mistreat the women he watches over, and Frank Geary, the Animal Control officer who just cannot seem to control his temper and puts himself at the centre of things when everything starts to unravel. He’s not the type of man who should be in charge, and you can just tell things are going to spiral out of control if he has his way. Because he’s heard about Evie Black, and he wants to find her, to force her to end this sickness so that his young daughter will wake up.
And talking of Evie Black, the beautiful woman with her apparent mystical powers and her dramatic arrival is intriguing. Where has she come from? And does she really have the ability to wake all the women up? And what happens if she decides she doesn’t want to? Or if the women decide that they don’t want to come back after all?
So many questions. If you want to find out how and if it is all resolved in the end, give Sleeping Beauties a read.