I did love it. Chaon creates a daring irony in the disconnect between the road warrior’s self-deceit and the reader’s skepticism. The mystery, the moral audacity, the sense that anything is possible in these early pages refreshes not only the hit-man trope but also the world itself. Chaon taps into the prurient thrill of riding shotgun with the unpredictable, and the question dawns: Just how lawless and unhinged will the world of Sleepwalk get? ... This sort of character is usually reserved for revenge flicks and Florida crime blotters, but Chaon, no stranger to genre mash-ups, brings a more literary sensibility to the proceedings, endowing his protagonist with a sweet disposition and a gently comic voice ... If it is a bit of a drag, dramatically, that she never physically appears — a formal necessity to keep the mystery of her true identity viable — Chaon does manage, by way of Will’s self-deluded longing, to turn his antihero into a figure worthy of pity ... What prevails above the plot is the voice, which is consistently winning and — odd for so bloody a tale — unfailingly warm. It’s a comic departure from the straightforward darkness of recent Chaon, and a welcome change. That’s no knock on his earlier books, just an acknowledgment that humane black comedy is a good look on him. He does madcap well and likes his characters, even the killers — especially the killers. Sure, there’s a crap world out there, and if Chaon’s fever dream is actually a forecast, it’s going to get a whole lot crappier. In that case, we’d all do well to affect a bit of Will Bear’s hopeful good cheer.
Brash, exuberant ... Sleepwalk draws on an array of genres and narratives, but it's also a visionary work, a preview of a nation just minutes away ... Sleepwalk is no act of dull somnambulism but rather a vigorous, polished performance by a writer in command of his gifts ... The novel's intricate structure and seductive voice lift off the page.
Will is sweet, sentimental and severely traumatized (he microdoses LSD to stay upbeat)—appealing company if something of a stock character: the hit man with the heart of gold ... It’s wild and entertaining, don’t get me wrong. But I doubt it will trouble my dreams in the same way as its predecessor.
... a wild ride across an eerie near-future America in the company of a surprisingly endearing kidnapper, arsonist and hit man. As emotionally charged as it is comically bleak, Dan Chaon’s fast-paced novel is both a dystopian thriller chilled to perfection and an often-touching exploration of the enduring power of parental and filial love ... The author of six previous books (both novels and story collections) that feature suspenseful plots and a distinctive literary flair, Chaon marries those qualities once again in memorable fashion while never losing sight of Sleepwalk’s emotional core: an interrogation of the power of ancestry and the way it helps shape our destinies.
... a wild ride. It’s an unputdownable novel that is never dull and so beautifully written that it is a simple pleasure just to get lost in the prose and a frightening new world that could resemble ours in the future. Will Bear is a character you cannot help but like. It’s time well spent just to be by his side for a few hours to share in his incredibly unique life.
A hair-raising and entirely credible portrait of a near-future dominated by billionaires and their corporations ... Like all great thriller protagonists, Billy has a complicated backstory that is slowly revealed, and which could cause the dreaded spoilers if gone into in too much detail ... In prize-worthy prose, Dan Chaon has fathered a protagonist worthy of respect, affection, and loyalty.
This strange and compelling plot features Chaon’s signature imaginative flair and brilliant pacing to create an ominous tension infused with sly wit. Chaon expertly provides vague science fictional notes that imply a slightly futuristic, dystopian setting that further amplifies intrigue. Oblique references to animal experimentation and devastating climate disasters add a chilling tone, but is it the emotional verisimilitude that provides heft. Will Bear is a tender mercenary, a microdosing Big Lebowski whose off-the-grid life parallels his disconnection from humanity. A consummate storyteller, Chaon imbues the darkly comic with colossal heart.
Despite the sordidness of his life and past, Will is a highly likable protagonist as he seeks a degree of redemption through his growing love for his possible daughter. A dark but appealing adventure of a man coming into himself after a lifetime avoiding identity.
... thrilling and funny ... The moving (and often hilarious) quest to find out who Cammie is and what she means to Will gives this a big beating heart, as does Flip, whose own post-traumatic stress is aggravated by thunder, fireworks, and tequila. As ever, Chaon expertly fuses the dystopian nightmares of technology and crime with fascinating characters who cross a hellscape to find each other. This is his best one yet.
In his earlier fiction, Chaon demonstrated a talent for conjuring dark moods and characters with fractured families, so a dystopian tale that reshuffles traditional stories about midlife crises and long-lost children would seem a fine fit for him. But this novel never quite finds its footing, shifting from backstory to an increasingly convoluted assortment of cult types and mercenaries; it doesn’t help that the central relationship between Billy and Cammie is conducted via phone, which brings a chilly distance to the narrative. The technology Chaon imagines is diverting—large, menacing, farm-protecting robots, suspiciously adorable surveillance drones—but the most tender relationship is a B-plot involving Billy and his dog, whose travails are sometimes more interesting than the humans' ... All the ingredients of a dark speculative tale imperfectly assembled.