Review: “Beyond the Night,” Colleen Gleason

Pros: Nifty worldbuilding and characters
Cons: One annoying “misunderstanding”
Rating: 4 out of 5

Book provided courtesy of the author.

In Colleen Gleason’s Beyond the Night (The Heroes of New Vegas) (Volume 1), Elliott and his friends were hiking in a cave system when an earthquake hit. They all fell unconscious, and when they woke up and emerged, it was 50 years later and the apocalypse had come and gone. There are very few people left alive, almost all of whom are younger than the end of the world, so they haven’t yet found anyone to tell them what happened. They know there are gangas, zombie-like flesh-eaters, that roam at night. When our story starts, the group does their best to rescue a bunch of kids who got stuck out at night and ambushed by gangas. In return, the kids take our heroes to the closest thing there is to a city–Envy. Another woman, Jade, had helped during the ambush as well, and since she ducked off in the early morning, Elliott hopes he’ll see her there. When they reach the city, which exists in the remnants of Las Vegas, they’re welcomed as heroes. Then they meet a man, Lou, who was alive when the apocalypse happened. He thinks he knows who caused it to happen–a mysterious group of immortal people called Strangers. Most people don’t believe the Strangers are up to anything bad, so he and Jade and a couple of other people run an underground network collecting as much information as possible.

It’s an interesting setup. There truly are very few people left–massive earthquakes, fires, tsunamis, etc. wracked the entire world at once. We’re seeing the world 50 years later, so we skip the part that most apocalyptics already cover. The guys who’ve stepped through time by some means have been changed in other ways as well. Quent can read memories off of objects. Elliott, who was a doctor, can heal people–although he absorbs their injury, and can pass it off to another. This gets pretty fascinating and adds some definite tension to the plot, as an injury he’s absorbed gets worse until he can pass it off. And he can pass it off accidentally as well as purposefully. The men’s hair and nails have also largely stopped growing, and they seem preternaturally strong and swift. They’re very well-suited to their new surrounds. The story also doesn’t skip the emotional repercussions of suddenly discovering that everyone you loved and everything you expected from your life is suddenly gone.

Jade has a background of having been caught by the Strangers and kept by a particularly sadistic one. She’s been raped and beaten. She gets sexually assaulted in this book, and we go through a scene of seeing her brutally beaten. It’s not out-of-place in a post-apocalyptic, but it’s a little hard to read.

I didn’t entirely like the “misunderstanding” that kept Jade and Elliott apart through much of the story. I’m not big on misunderstandings in romance novels anyway, because they tend to be fairly annoying, and should be easily cleared up. Certainly it should have been obvious to Jade much earlier than it was that Elliott needed reassurance that she wasn’t “with” Luke. Elliott also leaped ridiculously quickly to a conclusion that she’s basically a slut:

Women [who looked like Jade] attracted [men] in droves. And they couldn’t settle on just one.

The implication is that pretty women are always going to be promiscuous, which is an assumption that doesn’t do much for my opinion of Elliott. He cuts her some slack by presuming she needs to feel in control of her relationships due to having been kidnapped and raped, and cuts himself some slack by stating that the reason he cares about this is because he’s strictly monogamous, but the starting assumptions are still unwelcome.

The characters and plot of this series are interesting so far, and the sex scenes are nice. But I hope there are fewer misunderstandings to come.

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