If I Should Die Before I Wake . . .
Author: Vince Churchill
On the night Dylan stays awake, breaking up his long distance marriage, the world ends with a whimper. Sleepless and depressed, Dylan trudges into work in surprisingly light traffic, stopping at a convenience store that looks untended, the entire night surreal to his foggy mind. In this eerie, pre-dawn his thoughts are on another woman and on the one he left behind – until he gets into work. No cars in the parking garage. Hours pass and the office lights never come on. The LA freeway remains deserted. That’s when he discovers that everyone who fell asleep died in the night – and it doesn’t look as though it was peaceful. In a city of the dead, his last remaining connection is his wife – but can he stay awake long enough to drive to Illinois to spend his last remaining hours with her? Can he at least get there in time to bury his step-children? What about the remaining survivors in this lawless, lonesome world and what of the one, the seductive Alana, who joins him for his final journey? And if I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take . . .
The paranoia of the late night hours and the Last Man on Earth scenario combine with tension, exhaustion, and sensuality to produce a multi-textured haunting narrative of loyalty, love, and morality. Goodnight, My Sweet presents a captivating aura that is palpable from the first chapter. A novel that induces a strong emotional reaction (and some serious insomnia), Dylan’s predicament feels viscerally real. The way that the scenario is laid out and the emotionally complex situations precluding the world’s last night grip readers with Dylan’s struggle between love and loyalty. His late night turns out to be his salvation and his desire to get into work before dawn intermixed with his distraction creates an atmosphere that is evocative and psychologically terrifying.
The addition of Alana, a svelte virgin looking to die in the arms of a slumbering lover, further electrifies the tale without jeopardizing the seriousness of the journey and the situation. The erotic tension amplifies Dylan’s moral dilemma and his own vulnerability and neediness, showing the desperation of a slow death mixed with that unique anguish of exhaustion.
The desire to sleep, the long roads that stretch between Dylan’s goal, his last chance to do something right, are anything but easy. It’s a herculean task, guaranteed to be futile. How can he stay awake for three days? And what of those he meets along the way: the psychotic, the doomed, and the penitent? Each new encounter opens up the perils of a rapidly depopulating world and the ultimate confrontation as the realization of what really matters comes too late. Desires juxtapose with the feral nature of certain doom and it’s anyone’s guess if our two protagonists make it to their destination before falling into their final slumber.
Fast paced, action packed, emotionally ravaging, intensely and subtly creepy, Goodnight, My Sweet is one of those rare novels that just keeps staying with you, Dylan a man you can never forget, his struggle leaving readers feeling raw. This is one of the few novels that, although I read the e-book version, I intend to buy a hardbound copy to keep for my library and later re-reading. Unique, creative, and with that certain spark, that indefinable magic, Goodnight, My Sweet sparkles with surreal horror and beauty. Highly recommended.
- Frances Carden
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