Beyond the Gate by Mary SanGiovanni
Lyrical Underground (November 2019)
197 pages; $15.95 paperback; $8.69 e-book
Reviewed by Kevin Lucia
If you’re a fan of cosmic horror and you’ve yet to delve into the work of Mary SanGiovanni, you need to rectify that, immediately. Without a doubt, SanGiovanni is one the best writers on the cosmic horror scene today. And best of all, SanGiovanni hasn’t been content to rehash old Lovecraftian gods. She’s invented her own mythos full of eldritch beings and malevolent aliens, a dizzying pantheon of epic proportions that is fresh, original, and contemporary. Her Hollower trilogy is still one of my favorites, and I still maintain that Thrall is simply one of the most original novels of cosmic horror I’ve ever read.
SanGiovanni’s newest work, Beyond the Gate, is the latest installment in the chronicles of occult investigator Kathy Ryan. Ryan is quickly becoming one of my “impulse buy” characters, right up there with F. Paul Wilson’s Repairman Jack and Peter Laws’ Matt Hunter. In Beyond the Gate, the Paragon Corporation (a government research group) has opened a door to another world. Seemingly an empty one, safe for exploration. As you might guess, that’s not the case, as several different exploration teams disappear without a trace.
Kathy Ryan is brought onto the case, but things quickly go sideways when she learns her participation in the search and rescue is more compulsory than she was planning. What follows is a dreadful adventure set against a cosmic backdrop which rivals that of William Hope Hodgson’s The House on the Borderland.
Kathy Ryan is the best of what readers should be rooting for in a strong, feminine presence in horror fiction. There is no agenda here. She’s strong, she’s tough, she’s feminine, she’s flawed, she’s human. She reads like a real flesh-and-blood person. Also, SanGiovanni has once again offered her own unique touch on cosmic madness, as it becomes apparent early on that a mysterious survivor of the first lost expedition team has brought “something back with him” from this world, and it’s not necessarily as simple as an alien hitchhiking a ride on a human. It’s something communicable. Something which can spread.
Also, there’s a confrontation at the novel’s end between Ryan and these ancient beings which hints there is something much bigger — and certainly something far worse — in store for Kathy Ryan as she continues to battle against beings from beyond our world. I, for one, eagerly look forward to her next outing, and this receives my highest recommendation.