The Somniscient is a well-written gritty, futuristic, science fiction novel written by Richard Levesque and narrated by Steven Jay Cohen. The book places the reader in a future time where hard currency is no longer exchanged but instead replaced with sleep credits. These credits are not transferable from one person to another like cash, but the credits and their flow are controlled by a large corporation that knows everything about nearly everyone; think Google or Facebook. People work so they can earn the privilege of sleeping or have leisure time, all the while the corporation is deducting credit after credit for ones use of resources such as lighting, air, electricity, etc. All the while people are becoming more indebted to the company. It makes for a very grim and unpleasant world, however many of the people in the book grew up knowing nothing but this reality, and when they get a taste of what the world should be the story unravels.
People are tied into the corporation and all other aspects of the world via a “loop” that is surgically implanted behind the ear. This technology allows the wearer to view their credit status, receive map data, augmented reality, get paid by the company, communicate with other looped users, etc. This of a heads-up display projected on the user’s eye from within. One can also buy any number of items from clothing, food, and even dreams produced by the corporation; and others approved by the corporation. Dreams in this world are made available like videos are on YouTube. People can even make a living by recording and posting their dreams for others to watch. As with anything else in this world, the corporation takes a cut of the profits.
Things get interesting when one of the characters locates and plays a rogue (non-corporation sanctioned) dream opening a who new world and ideas not controlled by the corporation. This starts a chain reaction of events leading people to revolt against the company and the discovery of many dark secrets still yet to be uncovered.
The book was very interesting and I liked the author’s descriptive writing as it permitted me to feel like I was a part of the world. Although it was placed in a future time, it was not overly futuristic and often seemed plausible with some of today’s technology. If not today, the items people add to their social networks will be used by the corporation when the time comes. Today’s social networks are more a means of collecting data to imprison people when the time comes. The book is not only for science fiction fans, but includes a fair amount of action, mystery, clandestine activities, etc. that nearly anyone can enjoy it.
I must give the author credit for not using foul language in a book that could have been filled with it. I do not remember a single vulgar word being used, however I could have missed one. I will say that I would not recommend the book to younger audiences as there are some scenes containing discussions of sex, and sexual topics. Again, the author does not focus on these parts, but I believed uses them to portray the world the characters live in. It was more dark and gritty like The Fifth Element.
The book’s audio narration was done by Steven Jay Cohen. He has narrated over 20 books covering several genres on audible at the time of this review. I have not listened to any of his other works, but I have had “Strictly Analog” in my wish list for a future listen; same author and narrator as this book. Most people have rated his other narrations works by Steven between four and five stars, and that is where I would rate the narration for this book; four stars. It was by not bad, in fact very professionally done, but I have also listened to some narrators that was better. I listened to the audiobook at 1.5 times normal speed as I felt the pace of reading was a bit slower than I enjoy listening at. The audio itself was clean and contained no noticeable artifacts or errors. Audio volume and character voicing was consistent throughout the book.
Overall I would say this book as a hidden gem that people should pick up and read. It is engaging, felt believable, and contained a number of twists and turns to keep it interesting.
Disclaimer: I was voluntarily provided this review copy audiobook at no charge by the author, publisher and/or narrator.