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Literature / Those That Wake

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"Hope is but a dream of those that wake."
Matthew Prior

"The important thing is this: to be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become."
Charles du Bois

Those That Wake is a Young Adult book written by Jesse Karp.

New York City’s spirit has been crushed. People walk the streets with their heads down, withdrawing from one another and into the cold comfort of technology. Teenagers Mal and Laura have grown up in this reality. They’ve never met. Seemingly, they never will.

But on the same day Mal learns his brother has disappeared, Laura discovers her parents have forgotten her. Both begin a search for their families, but the more they try to look for them, the more they realize that something wants them silenced. Mal and his only friend, Brath, encounter a mysterious building, a delivery girl that works there named Isabel, and a terrifying, implacable man in a suit. Laura, on the other hand, encounters shady government agents who seem to be after her for no reason.

At the same time, Mike Boothe, a jaded schoolteacher, and Jon Remak, an education task force manager, realize that something is making New York became more cynical, apathetic, and ultimately hopeless. They, too, run afoul of the building and mysterious man in a suit. Thrown together by chance, they must work together to find their way home, learn who, or what, caused this and how to reclaim their lives—and fight the hopelessness gnawing at them throughout.

A sequel, entitled What We Become, was released February 26, 2013. Set two years after the original, it deals with Mal and Laura adjusting from the fallout of the first book. While Mal loses himself in his old ways, Laura seems to have entirely forgotten the events of the first book—including people, such as Mal. Feeling something is missing from her life, she goes in search of the truth. Meanwhile, Mal is captured and confronted by corporate agents who give him an offer he can't refuse: In three days, give the Old Man what he wants, or else. And what he wants is the key to absolute power.

The author's blog can be found here.

This book contains examples of:

  • Abstract Apotheosis: Inverted in the first book. Man in Suit is hopelessness given form.
  • Achilles' Heel: Castillo's is a weak knee.
  • All Your Powers Combined: Due to the neuropleth, the Old Man's mental and physical strength shoot through the roof after assimilating most of New York.
  • An Offer You Can't Refuse: Arielle Kliest makes such an offer to Mal in the beginning of What We Become.
  • Anthropomorphic Personification: Man in Suit is hopelessness.
  • Apathetic Citizens: Already prevalent. It's made even worse by the building and its doors.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: From What We Become.
    The Librarian: Tell me, Laura, what is your life like now?
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Corporations rule everything, advertisements invade every minute of your life, people retreat into their cellphones, the government patrols public transportation... and the Mets have moved to Las Vegas.
  • As Long as There Is Evil: The Librarian points out in the sequel that hopelessness, while greatly reduced, is still around.
  • Assimilation Plot: Both books have this, though in different ways. Man in Suit, the villain of the first book, plans to make everyone hopeless and vacant so he can fill them with him. The Old Man, the villain of the second book, uses the neuropleth—a hive mind of mental energy—to assimilate most of New York with plans to do so worldwide.
  • The Assimilator: Both Man in Suit and the Old Man.
  • Back from the Dead: Mal and Laura in the sequel, though at different times and not without costs.
  • Big Bad: Man in Suit in the first book; the Old Man in the second.
  • The Big Rotten Apple: Ever since Big Black, New York has not been a nice place to live at all.
  • Bigger on the Inside: The building and its doors lead to places like this.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The building and Man In Suit have been taken down, his influence is less widespread, and Tommy and Annie have been rescued, but Mike, Brath, and Isabel are dead, Remak's whereabouts are unknown, no one remembers Laura or Mal, and the corporations are constructing a new building where the old one was—though this one is visible at least. Also, the sequel reveals a new villain is around afterwards.
    • The sequel also has this. The Old Man has been defeated and the world is free of his influence, and seems to be on the road to recovery, but Remak and Mal are dead.
  • The Blank: Man in Suit is described as being hard to describe, with a lack of facial or clothing features but definite familiarity.
  • Body Surf: Entering the neuropleth allows you to do this at the cost of your physical body.
  • Bread and Circuses: Prevalent in the second book.
  • Break the Cutie: This happens to Laura in Those That Wake and to Rose in What We Become.
  • Breaking Speech: Man in Suit is scarily good at this.
  • Brutal Honesty: Man in Suit weaponizes this.
    I will answer any question you have, because by merely being honest, I will defeat you.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The Global Dynamic conversation.
    • Graffiti on a wall in the first book reveals the name of the villain of the second book.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Isabel appears early on in the first book and reappears halfway through.
  • Child Prodigy: Aaron in the sequel; he's the son of the CEO of Intellitech.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Rose in the sequel, towards Mal.
  • Co-Dragons: Castillo and Roarke to Arielle.
  • Corporate Conspiracy: Intellitech, a company that literally manufactured hopelessness until it grew a mind of its own, becoming Man in Suit.
  • The Corrupter: Man In Suit. He corrupts people through hopelessness.
  • The Corruption: Loss of hope. Isabel was unknowingly spreading this via her packages, and Brath falls victim to this.
  • Covers Always Lie: Minor example, but the jacket for Those That Wake says Mal is erased from the memories of everyone who's ever known him. While this does happen, it's not until much later. The wording also implies that Tommy, Mal's brother, may be the memory-erasure victim, which isn't the case at all.
  • Crapsaccharine World: New York is this in the second book.
  • Cynicism Catalyst: Big Black was the tipping point that sent New York into a state of unending hopelessness.
  • The Determinator: Mal and Laura. Mike actually calls them on this, saying that never giving up just hurts after a while.
  • Determined Defeatist: Mike. He thinks the world sucks, he's worthless, and he probably can't do anything to change it, but he'll fight anyway.
  • Deuteragonist: Mal and Laura in What We Become.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Of all people, Mike does this. But it's an illusion. Later, he does it for real by proving Man in Suit wrong and destroying him through noble self-sacrifice.
    • In the sequel, Laura singlehandedly frees the captive minds from the Old Man, reverting him to a feeble old man that Mal destroys with one blow.
  • The Dragon: Arielle Kliest to the Old Man in What We Become.
  • Driven to Suicide: Man in Suit's influence can cause this. In the sequel, it's revealed that this killed Aaron's father.
  • Dull Eyes of Unhappiness: People corrupted by hopelessness have these eyes.
  • Dystopia: The entire city is consistently described as grey and apathetic, and it's slowly been getting worse.
  • The Eeyore: Mike is this because he feels he's worthless.
  • Eldritch Location: The tower, only visible to the protagonists. Also, the looping forest.
  • Energy Beings: What people in the neuropleth become.
  • Equivalent Exchange: Healing someone via the neuropleth can bring them back from the brink of death, but it erases you from existence.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Arielle is horrified by the totality of the Old Man's plan and betrays him.
  • Evil Old Folks: The Old Man has been around for centuries.
  • Fake Memories: A plot point in the sequel. Remak can implant these, and he's done so to Laura.
  • Fictional Field of Science: Global Dynamics is basically Asimov's Psychohistory, with both being a mixture of applied mathematics and social sciences, both deriving material from highly detailed data about the population, and both using that data for the purpose of predicting the future.
  • Foil:
    • In the first book, Mike and Mal. Mike is an older man who can't fight for anything because he believes he's worth nothing, while Mal is a young man who fights no matter what because fighting is the only thing that gives him purpose.
    • In the sequel, Aaron and Rose are foils to Laura. Aaron is a child genius who believes in the good that technology can bring, while Laura is a teenager who doesn't believe technology is good. Rose is clingy and fragile, while Laura is stronger and assertive.
  • Genius Loci: The building and Man in Suit make each other up.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Man in Suit and his influence.
  • Have You Told Anyone Else?: Brath asks this when the main characters all meet; some tried to, but Isabel didn't get the chance to tell anyone. So he shoots her.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Arielle in the second book.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: In the first book Mike does one to save Tommy and Annie.
    • The sequel has Remak sacrificing himself to save Mal, and Mal sacrificing himself to save Laura.
  • Hive Mind: The neuropleth, a hive mind of mental energy.
  • Hope Bringer: Laura is this to Mal, particularly in the sequel. By the end of the series she becomes this for the world.
  • Hope Crusher: Man in Suit lives by this, as he's hopelessness given form.
  • Humanoid Abomination: Man in Suit is a humanoid man in a suit who's so blank his features are impossible to describe, and his influence can cause you to kill yourself or try to kill those around you. This is because he's the living idea of hopelessness.
  • Ice Queen: Arielle Kliest. The only person she warms up to is Roarke.
  • I'm Crying, but I Don't Know Why: Happens to Laura's mom in the first book and Laura herself in the sequel.
  • Implacable Man: The Tower Guardian is impossible to take in a straight fight, and is only defeated by tricking it.
  • In Harm's Way: Mal isn't happy unless he's fighting something, and sees not fighting as a failure.
  • In-Series Nickname: Man in Suit for... the man in the suit.
  • Journey to the Center of the Mind: In What We Become, Remak and Rose enter Mal's mind.
  • Kiss of Death: The Old Man kisses Rose to extract the neuropleth from her, which would doom New York and the world.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Everyone that ever knew Laura doesn't remember her at all, including her parents.
    • In What We Become, Laura can't remember a thing about the previous book, and everyone she knows remembers her like nothing had happened.
  • Last-Name Basis: Jon Remak generally goes by Remak.
  • Loss of Identity: In the sequel, Laura feels empty after losing her memories of the first book and Mal, and has no idea why because she can't remember—but she feels very strongly that her "normal" life is like a dream.
  • Lotus-Eater Machine: Mike has a vision where he just beats up Man in Suit and saves the world. He gets famous, rich, has a supermodel wife...but is told his child is worthless and it gets it from his side of the family. This drives him even further into hopelessness.
  • Mega-Corp: The MCT, and Intellitech.
  • The Mentor: The Librarian.
  • Mercy Kill: Done to Brath in the first book, as hopelessness has corrupted him beyond help.
  • Mind Virus: This is how Man in Suit propagates himself.
  • More than Mind Control: Man in Suit's influence amplifies the already existing hopelessness in people's hearts; this is why it's so hard to fight him. Brath falls victim to it.
  • Mr. Exposition: The Librarian is this in both books.
  • Multiple-Choice Past: The Old Man's origins are never clarified. If the Librarian is to be believed, he used to be a student of Carl Jung, before twisting his mentor's idea of the collective unconscious into the early stages of Global Dynamics. His theories garnered attention that grew into cult activity, which eventually led to a vaguely explained catastrophe. The real-life reason for this nebulous backstory might be the fact that Jesse Karp initially conceived of the second book's villain as a sort of vessel for the first book's villain, before changing the concept in a rewrite.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: Not murder, but close. In What We Become, Rose tries to replace Mal's memories of Laura with herself.
  • Muscles Are Meaningless: Once he gains access to the neuropleth, the wizened Old Man becomes obscenely strong.
  • Mysterious Informant: The Librarian, who went off the grid shortly before Big Black.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Mal leaving the door open at Mike's school let hopelessness infect it.
    • In the sequel, Rose gives the Old Man access to the neuropleth, an action which leads to Mal's death.
  • Nightmare Dreams: The main characters each have one before their lives are altered.
    • In the sequel, Mal has recurring nightmares of Man In Suit.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: A rare heroic version in the sequel, when Rose viciously beats Castillo with a chair.
  • The Nondescript: Man in Suit, who's described as just that.
  • Not Himself: Brath, once they reach the forest.
  • Pocket Dimension: The Forgotten Places, places that people forgot about and subsequently faded from normal existence.
  • Primal Fear: Everyone forgetting who you are, starting with your parents and friends.
    • The sequel taps into the loss of identity that goes with losing memories, as Laura feels part of her is empty and has no idea why.
  • Prone to Tears: Rose, stemming mainly from childhood trauma.
  • Quest for Identity: Laura goes through one in the second book, and to a lesser extent the first.
  • Reset Button: This seems to have been pushed in regards to Laura in the sequel. What really happened was that her memories were erased.
  • Ret-Gone: Forgetting about places makes them fade from reality so Man In Suit can claim them.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Isabel.
  • Samus Is a Girl: The second book reveals the Librarian is a girl.
  • Science Is Bad: Laura grows to believe this by the second book.
  • Sentient Phlebotinum: Man In Suit is hopelessness given life.
  • Shoot the Dog: Done to Brath.
  • Shrinking Violet: Rose in the sequel.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Mike's Heroic Sacrifice shuts Man in Suit up.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Mike has the record of the most profanity in the book.
  • Sour Supporter: Mike. He thinks the world sucks, he's worthless, and he probably can't do anything to change it, but he'll fight anyway.
  • "Uh-Oh" Eyes: People corrupted by hopelessness have a blank, zombie-like look to their eyes.
  • Uncanny Valley: In-universe; Man in Suit evokes this trope, leaving the characters confused and frightened by their inability to describe him.
  • Unholy Matrimony: Arielle and Roarke are close, and implied to be romantically linked.
  • Unlikely Hero: The main characters, but particularly Mike, Laura, and Rose.
  • Unperson: This happens to Laura, and eventually the other main characters.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Both books end with one.
  • Wistful Amnesia: Laura has this in the sequel. It's averted elsewhere in the series, where no one can remember anything about the forgotten characters.
  • The Worm That Walks: Man in Suit has slimy, wriggling things inside of him; it's unclear as to whether they inhabit him or if they're what he's made of, or if it's all just part of Mike's dream.
  • Worth Living For: Laura and Mal are this to each other, as are Tommy and Annie.
  • You Are Not Alone: This is the theme of both books.
  • Zerg Rush: The brainwashed students do this to Mike and Remak.