“[Chaon] does madcap well and likes his characters, even the killers — especially the killers.”
—The New York Times Book Review
An Indie Next pick for June 2022
Named a Best Book of Spring by Esquire
Named a Best Book of Summer by The Chicago Tribune
Named a Best Book of May by The Philadelphia Inquirer
An NPR "Book of the Day"
A USA Today "Must Read"
Named one of the "27 Books We Can't Wait to Read This Winter" by Thrillist
A high speed and darkly comic road trip through a near future America with a big hearted mercenary, from beloved and acclaimed novelist Dan Chaon.
Sleepwalk’s hero, Will Bear, is a man with so many aliases that he simply thinks of himself as the Barely Blur. At fifty years old, he’s been living off the grid for over half his life. He’s never had a real job, never paid taxes, never been in a committed relationship. A good-natured henchman with a complicated and lonely past and a passion for LSD microdosing, he spends his time hopscotching across state lines in his beloved camper van, running sometimes shady often dangerous errands for a powerful and ruthless operation he’s never troubled himself to learn too much about. He has lots of connections, but no true ties. His longest relationships are with an old rescue dog that has post-traumatic stress and a childhood friend as deeply entrenched in the underworld as he is, who, lately, he’s less and less sure he can trust.
Out of the blue, one of Will's many burner phones heralds a call from a twenty-year-old woman claiming to be his biological daughter. She says she’s the product of one of his long-ago sperm donations; he’s half certain she’s AI. She needs his help. She’s entrenched in a widespread and nefarious plot involving Will’s employers, and for Will to continue to have any contact with her increasingly fuzzes the line between the people he is working for and the people he’s running from.
With his signature blend of haunting emotional realism and fast-paced intrigue, Dan Chaon populates his fractured America with characters who ring all too true. Gazing both back to the past and forward to an inevitable-enough-seeming future, Sleepwalk examines where we’ve been and where we’re going and the connections that bind us, no matter how far we travel to dodge them or how cleverly we hide.
In Chaon's thrilling and funny latest (after Ill Will), Will Bear is a man of many names, many burner phones, and a 60-pound pit bull named Flip, a former fighting dog. In an America of the not-so-distant future, Will treats the traumas of his past with a daily microdose of LSD. He needs it: a 50-year-old "traveling agent on retainer" who works for a shadowy organization called Value Standard Enterprises, Will finds people. Sometimes, he's required to deliver them to their creditors. Other times, he kills them. Due to a worsening climate, the world through which Will travels has begun to resemble hell, a fact which doesn't concern him too much given his childhood was its own private inferno. But when a woman named Cammie starts calling Will's burners to tell him he might be her biological father, Will is shaken. He wonders if the woman might be an "Actress? CIA or Corporate Intelligence?" His boss, Tim Ribbons, wants him to believe she's an artificial intelligence. 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.
Compulsive dreariness with some good insights and interesting characters. The apocalypse is becoming an overly common plot theme. Cynicism masquerading as wisdom is dangerous.