Adam L.G. Nevill: Before You Sleep
Reviewed by Brian Bogart
The name Adam Nevill has gained a lot of notoriety in the horror community over the years. Touted by many as “the UK’s Stephen King”, Nevill has released a number of books and stories solidifying him as a writer who loves the genre. Anyone who has caught him in interviews can attest he knows his stuff. Recently, the film adaptation of his acclaimed novel “The Ritual” has garnered him more well deserved attention. But, what about those who haven’t heard of him? Readers can be fickle and unwilling to give authors a go, some even resorting to the “probably overrated since they’re popular” mindset. That makes “Before You Sleep” perfect for fans, but especially for new readers. Released for free on Kindle, it acts as an hors d’oeuvre before the main course that is the full-sized collection “Some Will Not Sleep: Selected Horrors”.
So, let’s pour a shot of whiskey (or whatever poison you prefer) and have a toast to horror as we dive into the pages.
“Where Angels Come In”
The first short opens with a boy, lying in bed. One of his arms and legs are suffering from chilly pins and needles. Enter Nana Alice, who can sympathize.
“‘Least you still got one half,’ she says. She has a metal brace on her thin leg. The foot at the end of the caliper is inside a baby’s shoe. Even though it’s rude, I can’t stop staring. Her normal leg is fat. ‘They took me leg and one arm too.’ Using her normal fingers, she picks the dead hand from a pocket in her cardigan and plops it onto her lap. Small and grey, the hand reminds me of a doll’s hand. I don’t look for long. She leans forward in her chair, and I can smell the tea on her breath as she says, ‘Show me where you was touched, luv.’” Neville’s creepy descriptions of Nana’s malformed appendages made me smile. It was simple and effective, hinting at the future fate of the narrator, a shared understanding between the two, despite their age.
From there, he recounts a haunted house story: kids daring each other to go in and then what they find inside. It’s the usual fare, but one thing I’ve enjoyed when reading Nevill is his ability to write children, their POVs and dialogue. He almost hits the checklist of this kind of tale verbatim- but his occasional lingering on certain details compels you forward.
Overall, creepy and a quick read. Honestly, some damn good writing. Slow at first, but picks up speed as it unfolds. And Nana’s little doll hand… *Shivers*
Next up, we are told a tale of a Japanese girl, a ghost and hundreds of toys.
“In the daytimes the toys never do much, but we still go looking for them in the empty rooms and in the secret places that Mama and Papa never knew about. When we find a toy sitting upright in a corner, or standing still after stopping dancing on those tiny fast feet, we talk to them. The toys just listen. They can hear everything you say. Sometimes they smile.
But at night the toys do most of the playing. They always have things to show us.”
Yep. Toys and what seems like Asian horror tropes on the surface. Don’t roll your eyes. Here’s another glass. It’s my bottle of whiskey. Take a shot. Stay with me. Keep an open mind. As I was saying …
This story would fail completely in lesser hands. The suspension of disbelief is sustained because of Nevill’s use of POV. It could come across to some as a darker R.L. Stine styled story, but I felt like this would have been great as a Twilight Zone or Tales From the Darkside episode.
I once knew a burly gent who was macho and monstrous in size. He was scared of only two things: spiders and dolls. Guess which one he could handle less? I’ll give you a hint: he hated babysitting his niece because of her toys. Constantly throughout this tale, I thought of him trying to read this.
Suspend that nagging disbelief – trust me. It’s worth it.
Our final jaunt into the supernatural and spooky concerns a man moving into a new home. His frame of mind regarding the home, memories and youth flush to the surface, and for good reason.
“… Frank wondered if the old woman had even moved out, or perhaps come back home. ‘She’s in a retirement home, I think. Couldn’t cope. Went a bit funny. Dementia or something,’ the wanker that was the estate agent, Justin, at Watkins, Perch and Manly, had said when Frank had asked about the former occupant’s history. So why hadn’t her relatives collected her things? Maybe she had no one at the end.
Frank was overwhelmed by an unwelcome notion of age, its indignities, its steady erasure of who you had once been and the recycling of your tiny former position in the world. The same tragic end might befall him one day. Right here too.”
It is very well-paced- until a point. This story is one of those that halts too quickly. It was jarring. Which is kind of a shame, considering the vivid descriptions and quick descent leading up to that made me nostalgic for my grandparent’s house and worried for the narrator.
Fleshed out a bit further, I think “Florrie” could have been a lot more than what it was. It’s still a great read. Don’t let that dissuade you.
Overall, this small collection can be read in an hour or two, depending on the individual. That’s a small amount of time to spend reading a creepy tale, much less a few well-written ones.
For us fans, it gives us more of what we’ve come to expect from Adam Nevill. For the newcomers, it’s a perfect introduction to the author and his style of storytelling. As a writer myself, I always enjoy when I get envious while reading, wishing I had wrote that line or scene. That happened multiple times during this trilogy of terror. Good stuff.
A suggestion for new readers:
Read it in bed, before you sleep. Lights out. Alone. At least one of these gems will affect you. May even make you a fan.
Pouring myself another shot. The trek home is long and these old bones have a chill in them. Funny. Almost like pins and needles. Think I’ll take the back roads this time. Despite the shadows, it beats walking past that one house on the hill.
You know the one. Empty, a tad dilapidated. Come to think of it- I think I’ll order a bottle for the road.
Until next time. Keep reading, keep writing… and Dream Darkly.
Star Rating (out of 5): 4****
Brian Bogart is an American author of dark fiction and horror/fantasy. He has written stories most of his life and has been a fan of the genre since the age of seven. His approach to storytelling is a tad macabre at times but tries to capture the nuances of the humanity and sometimes, inhumanity, beneath the surface. He supports the horror community with bloodied open arms and demonic vigor.
Dream Darkly and Keep Writing.
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A trilogy of horror stories from the award-winning writer’s first collection of short stories – SOME WILL NOT SLEEP – and an introduction to the nightmarish visions and ghastly spectres that have been disturbing the sleep of readers for years. In this book you’ll find two ghost stories and a tale of ancestral demoniac horror.
In the big white house on the hill angels are said to appear . . .
When the children left the house, their toys remained . . .
A confused and vengeful presence occupies the home of a first-time buyer . . .