(If I Should Die) Before I Wake
Written by: Tom Walsh
Published by: Publish America
Reviewed by Ismael Manzano
The horror novel, (If I Should Die) Before I Wake, by Tom Walsh, is another in a string of books brought to you by the Print On Demand Publishing Company, Publish America. Those of you who’ve followed my reviews know that Publish America’s works runs the gauntlet from extraordinarily great (Sherwood Forest) to unbelievably horrid (Graveyard Companions). I’m glad to say that despite it’s overly long, and not entirely appropriate title, (If I Should Die) Before I Wake leans heavily toward the former rather than the latter side of that scale.
Dave Smith is a computer programmer with almost no self-confidence, a pathetic love life, few friends and a weakness for being weak. His life is stagnant, with no foreseeable hope of being anything else. One day, he finds an old man in an alley, an old man who he’d seen at a local bar several times, talking to himself. The old man dies before his very eyes, but before he does, he gives Dave a decorative blue box. Startled and confused, Dave takes the box and runs, forgetting even to call the cops or report the body he’d found.
Almost immediately, Dave realizes that there is something off about the box, but he can’t bring himself to get rid of it. When he opens it, he finds something that looks like sand but doesn’t move, except to dispense a tiny grain-like pill to him. The inscription on the box read, “One each day at the stroke of midnight, and all your dreams shall be yours.” So naturally, he takes one.
Little did Dave know that he’d just entered into a contract with a powerful being who needed his energy to survive and was hell-bent on collecting his due. For a while nothing happened, but after a while, women start mysteriously and aggressively pursuing Dave. He starts to hear the voice of a man named George, encouraging him to give in to his lustful desires, and his dreams are plagued with unspeakable images and events that seem completely real.
Each time Dave gives in to his desires, he’s racked with guilt and blocks out the experience. But when he begins to age as a result and realizes that he is incapable of not taking the little grain-like pills, he seeks help. Taking the advice of one of his two friends, Dave seeks out a priest to help with what can only be a supernatural dilemma. But the more he does to help himself, the faster he ages and the more potent and terrifying the nightmares become. If he can’t find the strength to face the nightmares and the faith to believe in himself, his soul and his life will be lost.
(If I Should Die) Before I Wake is a pleasantly written, first person narrative that is both intriguing and entertaining. It does start off a bit slow, but managed to hold my attention fairly well until the mystery began to unfold and the story to pick up speed. And while the book is loaded with religious platitudes—especially toward the end—it somehow managed not to sound overly preachy or to feel like bible-thumping propaganda. It was also interesting to see a character that was—unlike most characters out there—very self-deprecating and completely unsure of his own strength; it made for a good rallying point for the reader to get behind, when the character finally started believing in his own worth.
All in all, this long-titled book, is a good read that is surprisingly analytical about human social behaviors, and is well worth your time. Enjoy.