If I Die Before I Wake: The Better Off Dead Series (Volume 1) – Edited By R.E. Sargent
Reviewed by Steve Stred
If I Die Before I Wake came onto my radar through fellow writers RJ Roles and Eleanor Merry. Both have stories featured and both started to do some initial promo on their various social media channels. When it went up for pre-order I snagged an ebook –but then they put out a call for reviewers, so I accepted an eARC from R.E. This is one of those unique anthologies that doesn’t have a big name anchoring it –thus, I feared without some early reviews, it would get lost in the fray.
The lack of “TOP TIER” shouldn’t deter you here. This anthology features a wide array of engaging voices and each story delivers a fun take on their chosen narrative.
I’ll touch on a few of the stories here, to try and get make your horror hunger burn!
It opens up with the story ‘A Touch of Grace’ by Peter Rocha. The story follows a husband as he deals with a wife he just doesn’t engage with or enjoys spending time with anymore. She’s gone down a rabbit hole with different “black magic” type readings and research. As things ramp up, Rocha builds some good tension. I found a few spots a bit jumbled, but the ending is a fun finish.
‘Strigoi’ by Jane Alvey Harris was a unique take on some familiar strains. A woman struggles with the arrival of her newborn. Her significant other has recently passed away and she finds she doesn’t connect with her infant. Thing unravel and we see some back story and why she is feeling how she’s feeling.
‘The Dead Lands’ by Chris Wilkerson is a great post-apocalyptic creature tale. I loved the POV of the main character and as things progress through the story and we see some of the natural changes start to occur in our lead, Wilkerson keeps keeping us guessing.
The two highlights of this anthology, for me at least, were R.E. Sargent’s story and RJ Roles story.
‘Shadow of Torment’ by Sargent is a great thriller set around a video game. We follow a bullied kid who struggles with school every day. He has a great connection with his buddy that he plays online games with and messages about what’s going on. As we learn more and more, Sargent keeps things creepy and keeps the reader guessing. Really liked how this one plays out.
For me personally, the highlight was Roles story ‘Dream Vacation.’ I read RJ’s release ‘Girls Best Friend,’ and the improvements he’s made in his writing with this story are fantastic. We follow a well off doctor, who has been given a second chance at his career from a chance meeting with a mysterious figure. The story here is phenomenal and RJ has created a character and a world that I’d love to see visited again sometime in the future.
Overall, this was a really well put together anthology. The writers each delivered quality stories time and again and I think this is one that the horror community should definitely check out. This is book one in the series and I’m excited to see how book two comes together.
If I Die Before I Wake
Sometimes, Karma’s a Bitch!
Don’t deny it. Your mind has dwelled for hours on the things you would do if your name was Karma. Malevolence towards those that wronged you festers and there is no relief—until now. Plunge headfirst into these sinister tales where karma finally takes control and vengeance is a dish that is best served hot.
The Better Off Dead series delves into the farthest corners of your mind, where your deepest, darkest fears lurk. These masters of horror will haunt your dreams and stalk your nightmares, taking you to the edge of sanity before pushing you to the brink of madness!
Contains stories by Peter Rocha, Steven Pajak, RJ Roles, Red Lagoe, Jane Alvey Harris, Charlotte Munro, R.E. Sargent, Eleanor Merry, Kayla Krantz and Chris Wilkerson.
Steve Stred writes dark, bleak horror fiction.
Steve is the author of the novels Invisible & The Stranger, the novellas The Girl Who Hid in the Trees, Wagon Buddy, Yuri and Jane: the 816 Chronicles and two collections of short stories; Frostbitten: 12 Hymns of Misery and Left Hand Path: 13 More Tales of Black Magick, and the dark poetry collection Dim the Sun.
On September 1st, 2019 his second collection of dark poetry and drabbles called The Night Crawls In will arrive. This release was specifically created to help fund the 1st Annual LOHF Writers Grant.
Steve is also a voracious reader, reviewing everything he reads and submitting the majority of his reviews to be featured on Kendall Reviews.
Steve Stred is based in Edmonton, AB, Canada and lives with his wife, his son and their dog OJ.
You can follow Steve on Twitter @stevestred
You can visit Steve’s Official website here