The concept is hardly original. One of the better episodes of the last Star Trek series explored the premise of a person who wakes up every morning with no memories of the days and years before. I picked up S. J. Watson’s Before I Go To Sleep hoping I wasn’t going to be reading a derivative work. I was unaware the book has been a bestseller, and widely (though not unanimously) praised. I read this book in three nights. It was engaging, believable, and extremely well-paced. As one might expect from a quality author, it explored a good number of concepts while keeping the reader (and main character) off-guard with a gradual development of information, misinformation, and menace. The key idea emerges very near the end, and was hidden to me until about a page before the main character finally uncovers it herself. I had to intentionally slow down my reading pace to make sure I was catching the last drops of how the novel resolves itself.
This was one of my more enjoyable reads this year. After I finished it last night, I checked various reviews, and I have to say I disagreed with some points of the book’s critics. The 350 pages are more than boring repetitions–the author handles the dribbling of information quite well and logically. A thoughtful reader won’t find it tedious, but I can see how a skimming of the text would produce a yawn or two. It’s actually quite difficult to portray with interest a main character who wakes up every morning with no memories. For a first-time author, this is an impressive feat.
Also challenging is a man writing a woman–he seems to pull this off. (But I’m a guy; so what do I know?) Is amnesia like this a possibility outside of science fiction? I don’t know that, either. But as an sf fan, I was well-prepared to accept the premise, though this is far from being a science fiction work. Then again, I don’t really count Star Trek as science fiction, but that’s fodder for another discussion.
I would recommend this book. It’s a very good read. If I ever write a first novel, I’d be over the moon if it were this good.