Beyond the Night
I used to read lots of science fiction, and I particularly liked a good post-apocalyptic story. Destroy civilization as we know it, and I would happily join the survivors as they attempted to make the world anew. My own personal favorite novel of this type is Earth Abides by George Stewart which is a masterpiece. In my romance reading history, I’ve read romances set in every time and place imaginable, but never a post-apocalyptic one until now. Gleason (she originally wrote this as Joss Ware) begins a new series with Beyond the Night, where a man wakes up from fifty years spent in stasis to find that the world as he knew it is gone.
Elliott Drake is a doctor. He and some of his friends (whom I am sure we will meet in the rest of the series) went cave exploring one day. When they came out, they discovered the world had gone mad. Zombie-like creatures known as ganga roam the earth killing the humans they meet, the landscape has totally changed, most cities are in ruins, and people are few and far between. Gradually Elliott pieces together something of what happened. While he and his friends were in the cave, they were caught in a sort of stasis field for fifty years and during that time, massive earthquakes, volcanoes and storms ravaged the earth. Las Vegas now has an ocean view – California is no more and a mysterious island has risen in the Pacific.
The book begins when Elliott and his friends come across a band of teenagers who left their hometown, Envy (formerly known as Las Vegas) and went in search of drugs. Instead the teens found ganga, who killed one of them before they were driven off by Elliott and his friends with the help of a mysterious woman on horseback. Later the woman, whose name is Jade, and Elliott meet again. She tells him of a mysterious group of immortal beings known as The Strangers who might have something to do with what happened fifty years ago. Elliott also meets Lou Waxnicki, an old man who survived the initial cataclysm and who, with a group of men and women, is trying to piece together the old Internet in the hopes of finding more information.
Jade hates the Strangers with a deep hatred. She was forced to live for three years as a concubine to one of them, and she has seen how they treat humans as though they were lab rats. She is fierce, she is beautiful, and Elliott soon falls deeply in love with her.
Elliott’s stint in the cave has left him with some odd powers. He can seemingly diagnose and heal by touch. However, when he touches an injured person, he takes on the injury to himself and then must pass it on to someone (or something) else. As the book progresses, Elliott and Jade bond, discover more information about The Strangers and Elliott comes to terms with the fact that the world he knew is gone, but perhaps he, Jade and his friends in Envy just might be able to defeat The Strangers and the ganga and build a better one.
There’s quite a bit to process in Beyond the Night and I plan to re-read it as soon as my Christmas break starts. Joss Ware does a very good job of world building here, but there are a lot of characters in the book and, since I read it fairly quickly, I probably missed some of the nuances. It’s fast-moving and exciting, especially a scene at an old mall where Jade, Elliott, and some others go up against a mob of ganga. That one had me holding my breath and turning the pages extra quickly. Elliott and Jade are both likeable characters, but in this book the relationships take a back seat to the world-building.
Kudos to Gleason for an original and lively book and one that looks like it will be the start of an excellent series. I know that I will be in the bookstore waiting for the next in the series, Embrace the Night Eternal.