Julie lies dead and disemboweled in a dank, black subway tunnel, red-eyed rats nibbling at her fingers. Her friends think she’s just off with some guy—no one could hear her getting torn apart over the sound of pulsing music.
In a tunnel nearby, Casey regrets coming to Survive the Night, the all-night underground rave in the New York City subway. Her best friend Shana talked her into it, even though Casey just got out of rehab. Alone and lost in the dark, creepy tunnels, Casey doesn’t think Survive the Night could get any worse . . .
. . . until she comes across Julie’s body, and the party turns deadly.
Desperate for help, Casey and her friends find themselves running through the putrid subway system, searching for a way out. But every manhole is sealed shut, and every noise echoes eerily in the dark, reminding them they’re not alone.
They’re being hunted.
Trapped underground with someone—or something—out to get them, Casey can’t help but listen to her friend’s terrified refrain: “We’re all gonna die down here. . . .” in this bone-chilling sophomore novel by the acclaimed author of The Merciless.
Personal Enjoyment: ●●●●○
Writing Quality: ●●○○○
I have been waiting for this novel since last summer when I devoured Danielle Vega’s first novel, The Merciless, in less than two hours. Survive the Night is the second novel in the series, but can be read as a standalone– much like American Horror Story, where each season involves a new setup with fresh characters, yet takes place in the same world. I do still recommend The Merciless, not because it will provide any new insight into Survive the Night, but because it’s just a really freakin’ good book.
Unlike The Merciless, which was more of a supernatural horror, Survive the Night is a good old-fashioned monster story, more along the lines of H.P. Lovecraft than Godzilla. I tend to gravitate more towards supernatural horror– you just can’t keep me away from a good exorcism– but I trusted Danielle Vega enough to go in with an open mind.
The narrator, Casey Myrtle, has just arrived home from rehab, but she swears she’s not the junkie her parents think she is. Everyone could have a bad reaction to pain killers, right? And anyways, she’s not going to let her stint in rehab stop her from ditching her childhood friend’s sleepover for a killer rave in Manhattan. I thought Casey was just as fascinating of a main character as Sofia in The Merciless. She was constantly victimizing herself– it wasn’t her fault she went to rehab, it wasn’t her fault she was drugged, it wasn’t her fault she ended up trapped and hunted in an abandoned subway tunnel. Watching her inward struggle to accept responsibility for the things that happened to her was almost as compelling as the horror going on around her.
Almost. Not quite.
I was expecting, very early on, a very straightforward monster tale. Maybe a werewolf or giant alligator monster living in the sewers. But I still cannot tell you what exactly that thing was. “Monster” didn’t quite do it justice. Vega mixes monster tropes with the unexplainable in a way that makes you question why you’re so afraid of something so cheesy.
I’d be lying if I said the cheesiness wasn’t one aspect of Vega’s writing I didn’t look forward to. She somehow takes old horror movie tropes and cliches and breathes new life into them. It might have something to do with how she puts her characters in places/situations– like a subway tunnel where everyone has to walk single-file into the dark– where you know exactly what’s going to happen, but she doesn’t let it happen. There were so many moments where I swore someone was going to die, yet they passed through mostly unscathed. The anticipation just kept building.
However, there are some moments where I eyerolled into infinity, specifically dealing with Casey’s possible addiction. Every time she talked about drugs, it read like the script of a bad D.A.R.E. skit. Whenever the group of friends stopped running and started talking, it was like Vega was trying to fulfill a dialogue quota– their conversations were recycled directly from teen horror flicks.
The last thing I’m a bit conflicted over is how the ending was dealt with. The Merciless ends with a sense of irony and resolution you won’t find in Survive the Night. The events leading directly up to the conclusion of this novel drip with Vega’s spectacular, bloody flare, but if you think too hard on them, they don’t actually make much sense. Throwing in how the general public rationalized Casey and her friends’ ordeal was a nice touch, and
unfortunately was almost too convincing after the scene of the final showdown.
Though not entirely without flaws, this is an instant personal favorite. Danielle Vega has earned the Auto-Buy Author ranking. I recommend Survive the Night for people who love the really good and bad horror stories; this book and its predecessor perfectly walk the line between ridiculous and genuinely terrifying.
Remember to read with all the lights on.