Librarians, out of body experiences triggered by sleep paralysis, and strange vampire-like monsters? Out of Body by Jeffrey Ford had everything I wanted and more. Like many novellas from Tor, this one packs so much into so few pages.
The story follows Owen, a small town librarian who, in the first chapter, witnesses a murder at his local deli. This is obviously traumatizing, and Owen begins to feel mixed emotions: sadness, grief, and guilt, among others. He’s suffered bouts of sleep paralysis in the past, but after seeing a young girl killed, it becomes harder and harder for him to get a good night’s rest.
But this time, things are different.
Instead of normal episodes, his sleep paralysis turns into strange out of body experiences. When he leaves his body he is able to wander around his small town and observe whatever is happening. He can walk through houses and watch people live out their lives without anyone seeing him.
At first he thinks he’s having weird dreams, until he meets a woman who also has out of body experiences, and explains that Owen is, in fact, spending time in the night world. What is the night world? It’s pretty much the same as what you see during the day, expect there are strange, eerie things that want to kill you.
I didn’t know what to expect at all going into this short book and was pleasantly surprised. It’s a dark fantasy with some elements of horror sprinkled in. Not everything is explained in full, but I find that’s usually the case with novellas because they are short on space. However, everything made enough sense to be enjoyable, and there weren’t any glaring plot holes.
Personally, I enjoyed reading the unique take on sleep paralysis and how it served as a sort of portal into the night world. In order to have an out of body experience, Owen had to have an episode of sleep paralysis. I’ve had episodes of sleep paralysis somewhat regularly (once every few months) since my early 20s. It’s an absolutely terrifying feeling, waking up and not being able to move, and seeing it blend into an even more frightening out of body experience was unreal.
If you’re looking for a quick read that blends elements of fantasy and horror, check this book out.
Thank you to the publisher, Macmillan-Tor/Forge, for an electronic copy of this book via NetGalley. Out of Body comes out on May 26, 2020, and can be pre-ordered or purchased wherever books are sold.