I loved this book. Every story was different and I loved the fact that some left you wondering what was going to happen. My favourite story was 'Joe Gallows', a gruesome but compelling story. Highly recommend this book."
“He had a need for a very particular kind of slaughter.” p. 1
This eerie collection opens with a story that will disturb the squeamish then eases into a series of tales with intriguing supernatural elements.
The first story “Joe Gallows” craftily made me feel sorry for the unsavory main character before he commits his brutal acts. Joe is creepy and forlorn with a presence that reminded me of the nightly visitor in Stephen King’s Gerald’s Game. This story made me double-check my door locks! I could definitely see this character featured in a full horror novel. Creepy, creepy Joe.
In every story, characters take shape swiftly and the reader is thrust into their strange predicaments with a sense of uneasiness. Folk horror elements abound with ill-intentioned animals and sentient natural elements. “Silent Night” and “The Orchard” told ghost stories of a pub and a rectory orchard so haunted that I didn’t want either to end just yet.
“He flinched, eyes wide in expectation and dread. There came a second knock, harder this time, followed by a firm rapping as if someone was demanding entry.” p. 107
The story “Crawl” built suspense triggered by the simplest of sounds: tapping. The character’s distress mounted with a tension reminiscent of Poe’s Telltale Heart.
“Blank Screen” offered a contemporary, yet still supernatural, jab at online trolls.
I’m now looking forward to reading Oldham’s collection Hag’s Breath to see her unique take on witchcraft and wickedness!
by Nina Johnson
Wakeful children is a fab collection of short stories. Really was a great read. Hoping to see more from the talented S P Oldham.
“Wakeful Children” is a collection of diverse and chilling tales, well-defined characters and worlds rich with astute observations and vivid sensory details. From the semi-rural horror of “Joe Gallows”, the bleak internet chat-rooms of “Blank Screen” and the varied portraits of suburban dread in-between, this anthology of short-stories from S.P. Oldham evokes the menace of Stephen King, the slow-burning terror of H.P. Lovecraft, and the fatalistic spider-webs of Edgar Allen Poe.
And – as with every good short-fiction collection – there is an underlying theme: to read each subsequent story within “Wakeful Children” is to be absorbed deeper down into the eerie places Oldham creates across these startling and suspenseful snapshots, her prose illuminating a nexus half rooted in the tangible realm, and half which can only ever be glimpsed at the furthest reaches of mere perception.
About the book: Eleven short stories varying from slightly spooky to downright terrifying. A mix of different horror genres; certainly not appropriate for children.
Review: I enjoyed how each of the stories was a different kind of horror story. I appreciated that they had length to them but were still short stories. If you love horror I would definitely recommend this book.
by TDC Book Reviews
The whole thing was written in such a perfect way for the type of stories!
Wow.. well these collections of stories really have no limits!
The whole thing was written in such a perfect way for the type of stories. The majority of the stories don't fit under the 'horror' category, but they are 100% of the supernatural genre. The context of the things that happen have got very graphic and vivid image representation which was both extremely strange and i was unsure about but i really also enjoyed this as i have never read anything with so much detail for such short stories!!
Each and every character that is represented in these stories are very head strong and you feel a instant connection to them.
The majority of the stories follow people with very troubled lives which i found to be very sympathetic towards them,given the eerie and descriptive lives they live(d)
What I also found very very interesting was how the stories have got an old fashioned theme run through them and then they jump to reality, i enjoyed this feature quite a lot.
by Leah Dollard
WAKEFUL CHILDREN: A Real Tour-De-force in the Horror Genre
Author S.P Oldham understands the sheer art inherent within the weaving a truly compelling tale. From the very beginning with the story "Joe Gallows", we are lead into a dark world that rushes towards us, like the icy prick and sudden deluge of a surging wave. There is that tingle within the senses, and an emotional rush of foreboding, so familiar, in the best of stories where wickedness and unexpected events take over and you are in for the fearful ride. Such is the first presentation leading off this anthology, and immediately the reader is thrown right into the crux of the narrative.
And what a narrative it is!
This is just the beginning. In total, there are eleven separate tales here, each with the necessary ingredients of light and shadow to add (at the very least) a littler shiver up the spine. My personal favorites include the following: "Joe Gallows", "The Sandman," "The Orchard" and "The Face in the Gale". Any one of these stories could stand alone, be expanded into a longer work, or adapted for the screen.
And while there is great diversity of tone and approach,Oldham applies a language that is concrete and yet features traces of graphic dazzle. You, as the reader, are ultimately seduced.
But the author does not let go of this carefully applied grip. There is mystery, suspense, and an awesome amount of craft at work here.
Even if horror, suspense and the like are not your preferred cup of brew, prepare to have your mind opened and completely blown.
To say I was impressed by the merits and the literary application throughout the pages of this anthology would be a gross and egregious understatement. -L.M. Ross
by L.M Ross
Wakeful Children by S.P. Oldham is a delightful collection of extremely well-written short stories guaranteed to hearken readers back to a cherished past, when they sat by a fire and listened with rapt attention as granny told scary stories. For those not lucky enough to possess such memories, Wakeful Children will fill that gap.
Oldham’s stories read like fairy tales cross pollinated by the Twilight Zone. Some are more gruesome than Grimm. Each tale is told in third person by a gentle, all-knowing voice that lends a haunting, personal quality to each story. Surprise endings and ambiguous conclusions will echo and linger in readers’ minds, causing them to rethink each story.
The characters are all unique: old, young, men, women; some are innocent, and some are downright dangerous. Everyone can find a character with whom they can identify.
The setting of each tale is precise enough to visualize, yet nebulous enough so that readers will feel that they might take place in any small town in Great Britain in various non-specific eras.
The silky plots are all intelligent and well-structured. The speed of each trajectory is carefully timed to hold a reader’s attention, to draw readers more closely into the terror. A grown-up version of the boogey man deliciously lingers over every single second, savoring every bit of terror. Readers will find themselves holding their breath along with the protagonist as he hides under the covers and listens for the ticking sound to draw closer. With a jolt, Joe Gallows transforms from a singular, twisted prankster to something much more dangerous. Ghosts, witches, and even diabolic weather conditions challenge characters and test their ability to survive.
Oldham’s style is clear and economical. She incorporates vivid descriptions and stunning metaphors without burdening the text with unnecessary words. The author’s attention to detail will enhance a reader’s ability visualize each setting without getting bogged down by excess.
The most notable quality of the collection, is the fact that each story has a unique plot. There is absolutely no redundancy among them and no derivative retelling of iconic tales, a sad practice that is all too common in the genre.
It can be said that the full-speed-ahead nature of current society is the perfect reason more readers reach for short story collections. Those who enjoy horror, hauntings, and the unexplained should give Wakeful Children a read.
by Suzanne M Synborski, aka Rougeski
Recommended for fans of the horror genre
Wakeful Children by S P Oldham is a horror anthology that reads fast and is recommended for fans of the genre.
The first story Joe Gallows starts out strong, a tale of a poor man in a cycle of violent abuse and revenge. Absorption, the second story, is more experimental written in second-person and it’s an interesting style. Even the tree is a character.
Once I got to the story entitled Sandman, which is about depression and the strange land of sleep, I noticed a recurring theme about dreams. The Century Man explored this, and stories like Crawl being about the deep human fear of the darkness of the night.
Some of the stories such as Allissa, Falling are more like fantasy with its mysterious setting.
Overall, as horror and the supernatural goes, the whole of the book be it hallucinations or dreams concerns how scary it is when reality comes unglued and no one knows what’s really real…
The brevity of the short stories works well, with expressive language. It doesn’t take long to read, so no reason not to give this anthology a try!
by Ray Hecht
How I love a good horror! As much as I enjoyed all the short and varied stories, the one that I would call my favourite was Joe Gallows. This was a very gruesome story and could imagine this would make a good horror movie. I rarely write what (happens in) a story for fear of spoiling for others, but I do highly recommend, especially if you enjoy this genre.
by Jeanette Styles
I have to say the stories in this collection will haunt you and the book itself is somewhere between 4 and 5 stars because I loved many of the tales 5 stars worth and some 4 stars worth. Readers are going to find 11 short stories that take you into the realm that lies between dreams and nightmares. I read this collection just before Halloween, a great time for the theme that runs throughout the tales, but must say you can enjoy these stories anytime and maybe would like to read them with the lights on.
by Pamela Winn
I loved this book. Gruesome and compelling, this is a wonderful collection of horror stories. S.P. Oldham is a gifted writer and lends a great style to this genre. Out of all the stories, Joe Gallows will haunt you. Looking forward to more great reading from this author.
by Jude Radley
I am 48 years old, happily married to Adam for the last 28 of those years. I have two grown up sons and a spoiled Cocker Spaniel. We live in the Sirhowy Valley in South Wales.
I write primarily in the Horror and Speculative Fiction/ Supernatural genre, though I have been known to dabble in others from time to time.