Title: The Beyond
Author: Barry Harrington
Hardback: 273 pages
Publisher: Diamond/Charter (1991)
Amazon: Instant Look Up
About the Book:
Home Is Where the Horror Is.
Twenty years ago, two little girls were attacked in the quiet town of Groveland.† Only one survived.
Today Susan Holland is coming home to face her pastÖ
Home to her motherís funeral.† Home to a town shattered by fear.† Home to witness the horrifying results of a medical experiment that isolates the soulís transition from life to death.
In Groveland, the dead are rising from their graves.† And they have a message for Susan: You canít go home againóand live.
Ten year olds Susan Holland and Michelle Abel were the best of friends.† Inseparable and irrepressible, they had the whole world, and their whole lives ahead of them in rural Groveland, New York.† But then Louie Percival and Dannie Dayton did something terrible, something that has followed Susan all the way into the present.† Some books, you pick up and read.† Other books pick you up and donít let you get away.† The Beyond by Barry Harrington, held me in a relentless grip for a day and a half.† Life forced me to stop in the middle, or it would have taken half that long.
A quick read, this short novel, published only in paperback, seems disposable by its melodramatic cover and the blurb text on the reverse.† But, like all successful fiction, the been-there plot melding sci-fi and horror pales next to the living protagonists.† I stumbled across The Beyond in an old book bag, where it had languished since it came home with me from a flea market a few years ago.† The first chapter piqued my interest, but in the second chapter lay magic.† As I finished that second chapter, I knew that this book possessed a special quality that surpassed genre.
In chapter two, Harrington takes us into the past, when Susan Holland and her beau Justin Nesbitt were in high school.† We get to know these two through the love they share, all the while Harrington weaves imagery that captures the impossible tangle of emotion that exists around first love.† In that second chapter, The Beyond transports us back to high school with them, to those feelings that you might suffocate in these feelings of true love, those feelings that you might want to.† By the end of this chapter, Susan and Justin are clearly characters of relevance.† These are characters worth following through any adventure.†
Over that day and a half of reading, the blurbís promise of the dead rising proved true, and in a unique way which took a little getting used to.† Ultimately, I came to appreciate the approach.† After all, if the dead exist beyond our three dimensions, and the dead return, then thereís room to believe that they might not fit within the confines that held them in life.† And, if time is just one more dimension, then the return of the dead might well juxtapose us to a melding of that dimension in ways we just arenít meant to experience.
There is a real sci-fi element to this novel, and one that Iím not a hundred percent positive needed to exist in order for the story to follow nearly the same trajectory from start to finish.† A handful of characters would have to have been recast, or at least introduced under different circumstances, but overall the book could have gone straight horror and worked as well.† Perhaps thatís a personal preference, though; the sci-fi didnít not work, but it didnít mesh smoothly with the grotesque zombie arms on the cover and the apocalyptic blurb on the backÖ
What really makes this book stand outówhat makes Susan and Justin into such weighty charactersóis the language.† Harrington thanks Ray Bradbury in the Authorís Note, and October Country gets a nod in the novel itself.† The writing of The Beyond flows like a Bradbury tale.† Harrington carries on the same love affair with autumn, capturing the poetry of the idyllic New York countryside with no less aplomb.† But this isnít a Ray Bradbury tale.† What this book feels like, more than anything, is this:
What if, after writing Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury set out to write a Stephen King novel?
Thatís how this book feels.† The subject matter is darker than a Bradbury tale, and far more abrupt.† The dialogue is free of the elder statesmanís restraint.† People are grabbed by the balls, and things are jabbed into eyes; foreshadowing emerges to tell you the things you donít want to know, but makes you crave more, crave a reason, crave justice; the horror is aggressive and personal.† The plot is The Dead Zone meets Needful Things, all translated through the lens of a man in love with the language and imagery of the season.
A novel takes me a month to read.† A short one like this, maybe two weeks.† This one took two days.† I canít give higher praise than that.† This is a bit of genius, and Amazon has used copies on sale for less than the price of shipping.† Not for the faint of heart, but if you ever longed for those high school days, then the second chapter of this book will transport you there for a few, vivid minutes.† And, then, once youíre trapped, youíll follow Susan to the very end.† Delightful.