Review: “Beyond the Gate,” Mary SanGiovanni

Pros: Still interesting
Cons: Not much happening
Rating: 3 out of 5

Mary SanGiovanni’s next novel about occult consultant Kathy Ryan is Beyond the Gate (A Kathy Ryan Novel). A company called Paragon Corp is dabbling in opening doorways between universes. When something inevitably goes wrong, they call in Kathy Ryan to help them. After all, closing doorways and keeping out monsters is in her job description. They end up sending her and several other people through the gateway and into a seemingly uninhabited world. Their mission: to rescue missing scientists, collect information, and find their way home again.

That sounds a little sparse, doesn’t it? I mean sure, it could be fleshed out into something quite meaty, but it isn’t. And that’s disappointingly different from the other Kathy Ryan books. Those had plenty of monsters and chases and fights and all that jazz. This story is mostly telling, going over facts about Kathy and other worlds that we already know from other SanGiovanni books or just ruminating overly long about what’s going on in this book. I honestly didn’t find it all that interesting. The material set in the other universe spends most of its time on getting lost in a giant, mostly-empty city.

I also wasn’t thrilled with the climax. We’re finally introduced to some big, bad entities, but then it felt as though they were so powerful that SanGiovanni didn’t really know what to do with them. There’s a disappointingly short and relatively uninteresting climax to the book and it doesn’t do much to answer any questions. I felt like this could have been condensed and turned into the first third of a longer, more intense work.

It’s certainly possible to do this kind of low-key horror with not too much physical happening, but it’s not what we’ve come to expect from the Kathy Ryan novels. And it doesn’t mesh with what Kathy finds out about the world they’re visiting.

The other books also had a much more traditional horror approach to their bad guys, primarily relying on cultists. This time it’s a large corporation with ties to the US government. It’s a whole different feel, and I don’t think all readers will like the transition. I think it was good enough, although some of it was a bit obvious. The corporation had a weird tendency to just let obviously messed-up things leave their premises, yet at the same time tended to round up the main characters any time they found them, using standard-issue goons with guns. Only a few of the corporation folks broke the mold enough to give it some variety.

I still plan to check out another Kathy Ryan novel assuming there is one, but I hope it goes back to a more familiar style.

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