I’ve spent several weeks working through You Might Sleep…but you will never dream, a new collection by Nick Mamatas. It’s a fine looking book, but the beauty is skin deep. What lies between the covers is unadorned and mean. It could be personified as a large, feral dog with a choke collar chained to a fence, and growling in its dreams of biting the hell out of the mailman. Mamatas writes as if he’d as soon take your hand off as look at you.
And so, yes, I’ve taken my time between stories, which are uniformly lean, but uniformly brutal and provocative. McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, Nic Pizzolatto’s From Here to the Yellow Sea, and Paul Tremblay’s as yet uncollected recent tales affect me in a similar fashion, although the authors’ styles and subjects bear scant resemblance to one another. Nonetheless, these gentlemen all write in the eat-or-be-eaten mode. I’ll leave the comparisons there -- Mamatas occasionally edges into the territory of classical authors, but his style isn’t readily pinned down except to say its pervasive wryness, its acidic commentary, sets him apart from just about everybody in the field.
You Might Sleep…collects twenty-two pieces of fiction that run the gamut of science fiction, fantasy, metafiction, horror, generic lit, to the realms of the effectively unclassifiable. Mamatas plays with form and structure, although he favors a stark, blunt prose style. Intellectually, as evidenced by his LJ essays, he’s one of the sharper knives in the drawer, and that keenness is on display in this collection. And a merciless display it is. He’s got a developed sense of humor, but the trick is to figure out when he’s laughing with you or at you.
Do I recommend You Might Sleep…? Without hesitation. This is upper echelon writing from sentence level outward. However, it’s not for the weak-kneed or the casual reader. Mamatas is going to challenge you, implicate you in his brutal and perverse scenario-making. He’s going to hit you where it hurts. And laugh.
You Might Sleep is available from Prime Books, Amazon, etc.