51 Sleepless Nights by Tobias Wade is a remarkable collection of short stories about what the author describes as demons, the undead, paranormal, psychopaths, spirits, aliens, and a few mysteries thrown in. That variety is what makes the collection remarkable. As I read through the stories, I looked for instances of similarities between the selections. I couldn’t find any. Which means the reader can look forward to 51 different themes. This amount of creativity is something I rarely see in literature; I see it more in stand-up comedic or political commentary.
When I read a collection of short stories, I usually comment on each one. With 51 stories to read, I will not do that. But I do want to point out some of the more terrific stories and interesting themes introduced. I have found only two stories I didn’t like and that was because of their endings. This is mostly a “safe” novel in terms of language use, sex, and violence. There is even The Masked Orgy that doesn’t use offensive language. In a brief email exchange with the author, he remarked that on a dare he wrote one of the stories for a challenger who insisted that one author could not write from so many different perspectives and come up with so many different stories. This collection is proof that Tobias Wade can do that. This is one of the very few collections that I highly recommend for variety, entertainment, and thoughtful writing.
And here are a few comments on some of the stories that impressed me most. I rated them from 6 (good) to 10 (noteworthy).
My Family Tradition to Feed the Spirit (6) A good story well told but a predictable ending.
I am a Human Voodoo Doll (8) I liked the moral “No-one should make life-altering decisions as a result of an emotional state. No matter how convinced your heart is that something is true, wait to act until your mind has caught up.” (p. 321)
The Solution to Prison Overcrowding (8) Another great observation on humanity. “There is no Devil, only man, and he does not buy souls… Man is far more insidious than that, for he grinds down his brother’s soul one layer at a time until the residual humanity begins to devour itself.” (p. 289)
I Loved her in the Winter (9) A story of the death of a loved one. I rated this high because of the author’s skillful use of prose/almost poetry in one part of the selection.
She is still with me (10) Another death of a loved one story but the ending provided is an abrupt shock.
Three go to sleep. Four wake up. (10) The title gives you a hint of what is happening but it is deceptive. I gave this the highest rating because of Wade’s skill with the sing-song poetic passages. They occupy almost six pages of the story and deserve a careful read.
How to Start your own Cult (9) This is a recipe book with step-by-step procedures to take over the world. It can be applied anywhere in our current environment. Very well done. This encourages thought.
Everyone Lives, but not Everyone Dies (9) I found this to be the most frightening tale. But that might be because I am old. There is also a great moral “One lifetime is more than enough if used properly, and a thousand lives aren’t nearly enough when used as he has done.” (p. 232) Read the story to find out who “he” is and what exactly he has done.
The Wall Between Us (8) This one risks the accusation of being snarky because of the mention of Trump (POTUS) but I still liked it.
Like Father Like Son (8) A scary story for parents.
Countdown to the Beast (10) A very innovative and artistic look at a concept of time.
124 Terabyte Virus (9) For those worrying AI will take over the world, this story is for you. Also a story for proud parents.
She Was Asking For it (8) He had to destroy her in order to save her.
The Psychedelic Tattoo (7) Read this and you will never again consider getting a tattoo
The Final Question (9) Just thinking about this line kept me awake. “(S)omewhere in the beginning that which existed was separated from that which does not, and the void has never forgiven you for leaving it behind.” (p.114)
The Angel Doll (9) For those who remember reading A meeting in Samarra, this will provide a modern update.
Two stories had endings I didn’t like. They are good stories but in comparison to everything else offered, they were bland. The Organic Machine and Breaking and Entering for Dummies. But, wow, that still leaves forty-nine out of fifty-one winners.
SUMMARY: Buy this novel, follow this author, don’t read anything by him a few hours before bedtime.