Welcome, one and all, to another MDM Projects book review. Today’s review is one that I’ve been looking forward to because the book in question, If Souls Can Sleep by David Michael Williams has been on my radar for a little while. As such, when David offered me a review copy, I jumped at the opportunity. But did it live up to my expectations? Let’s find out.
Background: David Michael Williams lives in Wisconsin with his wife and children, and holds a background in journalism, marketing and public relations. He has published multiple speculative fiction titles, including the swords-and-sorcery trilogy, The Renegade Chronicles.
If Souls Can Sleep is a genre-bent title, the first book in The Soul Sleep Cycle, and was published by One Million Words LLC. The story follows Vincent, and man who is currently struggling in life. His young daughter is dead, and he blames himself for the tragedy. His life has been slowly falling ever since and is now about to hit a new low. Vincent is intermittently falling into a nightmare in which he is a fantasy-novel styled hero. As his visits to the dream world grow in frequency, he has to ask one question: is there more to this, or is he simply losing his mind?
The Good: The first thing I want to mention is the thing that drew me to the book long before I obtained a copy: the cover. Mary Christopherson did a fantastic job here and has created a really beautiful piece that should really do a great job of drawing readers in.
Of course, the visual aesthetics are not the only part of a book. Character wise, there are plenty of people to get to grips with here. The most important though is our hero Vincent. What I loved about him is that he isn’t a typical hero by any means. The tragic backstory doesn’t leave him aiming himself squarely at redemption but has rather left him wallowing in a downward spiral. He lashes out and acts like an ass, and he truly struggles to move on from the moment that essentially wrecked his normal life. The thing is, even when he’s acting in a less than likable way, it’s still easy to get behind him. The amount that he’s suffered, and the way that suffering changes as the story progresses causes you to view him as a regular guy that’s down on his luck and deserves a chance to move forward.
The supporting cast are also full of some well-envisioned characters too. From Vincent’s long-suffering flatmate Jerry to his potential love interest Leah, those stood clearly on Vincent’s side do their best to help him, and really help not only flesh him out as a protagonist but get their own runs of focus in too. Then there’s Vincent’s brother Daniel, who is in a coma. He, like his brother, was no saint, but he is another interesting addition to the story.
The story itself blends a little fantasy, some Norse mythology, and some science fiction. This is balanced quite nicely throughout, with different elements becoming focal at the necessary times. What this all leads to is an interesting little tale about secret wars and redemption. Honestly, it really impressed me with how easily it hooked me. It’s well thought out, clearly meticulously planned, and one of the more original ideas that I’ve read in recent times.
It’s also worth noting that, while the series is set to be a trilogy, you get plenty of closure here. You won’t be left with a sense that there was too much left unsaid, as the book feels like it can be read as a standalone, while still setting up concepts for the second book.
The Bad: In terms of any content warnings, the death of Vincent’s daughter is something that comes up a lot. It’s not dealt with in a way that’s unnecessarily violent, but if you struggle with this particular topic, it may be a deal breaker.
Moving on though, my only real issue with the book was that the jumping between the real world and the dream world had a mixed effect on me. You see, at times, it felt a little jarring. In a way, that fits with how it must have felt for Vincent, which is fine, but for me, the issue was the timing. Each jump seemed to take place at times that left me thinking ‘but I wanted to stay in that world a little longer and see what happens …’. Now, that’s not entirely a bad thing as it did leave me eager to get back to the other part of the story, and the events playing out in each section were such that they keep you interested regardless, but the slight jarring was there, at least for me.
Final View: If Souls Can Sleep does not disappoint; it takes an interesting concept and executes it well, blending genres and a strong cast of characters to draw you in and keep you wanting more.
Final Score: 4 / 5