This novel by ground-breaking sleep researcher Jouvet (The Paradox of Sleep) is written as a series of discovered journal entries and letters by fictional 18th-century French scientist Hugues la Scève: wealthy, intensely curious and obsessed with tinkering. Painstakingly documenting seven years of his own dreams and applying novel methods of classification and analysis, la Scève attempts to pioneer the science of dreaming.
He follows this work by collecting empirical evidence to support his theories, spending years observing sleeping rabbits, toads, Siamese twins and postcoital couples. He applies the emerging sciences of electrical engineering, chemistry and physics to his experiments. Long theoretical stretches are tough going, and there's no real denouement. But the scientific techniques and instrumentation, described in minute detail, are particularly satisfying.
When it works, the book brings to life a time when the yoke of irrational faith was being lifted, opening up seemingly endless opportunity for discovery.