Night of 1,000 Beasts by John Palisano
208 pages; $14.95 paperback; $2.99 e-book
Reviewed by R.B. Payne
The scariest things at a ski resort are normally daily ticket prices, $20 hot dogs, and the prospect of a twisted ankle or broken neck. This is hardly true in the gripping Night of 1000 Beasts by John Palisano, in which a hot-shot group of skiers find themselves in a horrific cosmic event where it becomes obvious that some of them have taken their last lift ride to the top.
At the end of a long day of skiing, Carolyn, Keith, Heather, and Brian separate — some wanting “just one more run” before sitting fireside and imbibing in a cocktail of choice. Before their plans mature, a mysterious energy wave shifts the snow on the mountain, throwing everything into chaos. As darkness approaches, each of them realizes it’s the longest night of the century… and it will seem even longer for them as something malevolent emerges from the dark.
In a mash-up of ‘80s horror flicks, homages to some genre classics (which I will not spoil by naming) and genuine inspiration, Mr. Palisano creates a compelling story with one foot solidly in blood and gore, and the other cleverly wrapped in a bit of fantasy. At the beginning of the tale, he is focused on claustrophobia, although the events take place in the benign open air of a ski resort. As the novel (and night) progresses, he leads us through layers of world-building where each layer, punctuated by grisly events, reveals to the reader that there are things in the universe for which we are unprepared.
Lest you think our heroes must face this terror alone, they are joined by others — those that have come to rescue and those that have come to kill. The story grows deliciously, especially if you like your steak rare.
I’ve always been a fan of Mr. Palisano’s work and I feel this is one of his best. At the end of this story, one realizes that we’ve seen only a single intersection of innocence and horror that introduces us to a greater Other. There’s still a larger tale to be told, and although this book certainly stands on its own, there is plenty of room for a sequel. Let’s hope he writes it.
The best analogy for this novel is a double-black diamond run. At the top, it’s straight downhill and the run takes your breath as your skis carve deep powder. Then the run levels out and you think “yep, everything’s going to be fine.” Then the trail turns and narrows into a chute framed by cliffs, the moguls grow large, the snow turns to sheet ice and every muscle works to keep you alive.
You’ve got no idea if you can make it.
And, oh yeah, there are creatures that want to rip your guts out through your mouth.
That’s the kind of story this is.