Night Work, by Thomas Glavinic

Jonas wakes up one morning to find that he seems to be the only person on earth: every other person and animal has disappeared, with no evidence to explain where they might have gone. Maybe there are other people like Jonas, if only he can contact them?

Interesting starting point for a book, and things get a bit more puzzling: the power is still on, and phones still work (although no-one answers). Jonas feels very tired, and realises that this is because he's doing stuff in his sleep. So he sets up video cameras to film himself, in order to try and work out what might be happening in the night time.

There are some good ideas here which could be exploited by a SF or horror book, but that's not the kind of book this is. What happens is that the situation Jonas finds himself in prompts philosophical musings on the meaning of existence and personal identity. E.g. Jonas finds some photos of himself as a child: is the image in the photograph the same person as the one now looking at it? What does it mean to be the "same person"? Is the sleeper that Jonas watches in the videos the same person as the viewer?

Some of this was a bit interesting, but it didn't really grab me, and felt like a bit of a waste/cop-out: I think you could have written about these types of question without having to set up this back-story, but having set up the story, there was little attempt made to explain things and resolve the apparent inconsistencies.

There was a good section when Jonas is trying to drive to Scotland, but whenever he goes to sleep, he finds on waking that his alter-ego has spent the time driving back in the other direction: Jonas finds himself trying to devise schemes in his waking hours to outwit his sleeping self.

But although I wanted to like the book, and I think the review I read of it was pretty flattering, it didn't quite do it for me.

Completed : 01-Oct-2008

[nickoh] [2008 books] [books homepage]