Our first moral of October: Don’t do drugs kids.
After a stint in rehab, Casey is finally clean and ready to get back to her normal life. When out at a club with her friends, they learn about a secret rave called Survive the Night happening in an abandoned subway station. With nothing else to do that evening they decide to go.
Things go from bad to worse when Casey’s friend Shana slips her some ecstasy and one of their other friends go missing. It turns out that the parties are not the only ones down there…. Something is lurking in the shadows, ready to pick off those who wander too far from the party…
Right off the bat it’s the medium that cripples this story. The text based form of the novel doesn’t do the story justice. I could see this story as a really atmospheric film. The use of colour and trippy visuals fall flat in the novel, but could do some really awesome things on screen. Vega spends a lot of effort trying to make the start of the horror unreliable. Is Casey actually seeing a supernatural creature or is it just the drugs? Is the Survive the Night rave itself a trap or does it happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time?
Survive the Night’s narrative has surprisingly many levels to unpack. On the surface it’s your usual slasher. The first third of the novel is setting up for the eventual demise of all your characters. You have a modernized spin on all your murder fodder characters, especially with Casey as an interesting twist on the Final Girl.
One of my favourite things about this book is the cover. I love the use of colours and texture. If you have a chance to pick up a hardcover edition of this book I suggest you do. It’s made to look like a bunch of posters have been pasted over one another and ripped. It totally goes with the beginning vibe of this story.
There are multiple antagonists in this novel. The most obvious being the murderer systematically stalking and killing off the main characters. The second of course being drugs because drugs are bad. Don’t do drugs. Ever. Vega’s drug narrative was really hit or miss with me. I really liked how she worked the unreliable narrator angle. Are the events of the novel really happening or is Casey having a bad trip? Yet again I think this would be another thing that would work better on the screen instead of in a novel. Show us what Casey is seeing, make us distrust our own eyes. It’s the subtle workings of this theme that I like, but at times Vega gets really heavy handed and the novel reminded me of the health class horror movies I watched in school that tried to scare me straight (and by scare me straight I mean scare me before I ever have a chance of being exposed to drug culture).
Casey’s best friend Shana also functions as an antagonist. Shana is a wild party girl with a serious drug problem. Do you remember Nancy from The Craft? She was what I was picturing Shana looked like the entire time I read this book.
Casey and Shana’s relationship is central to the plot of the novel. To call Shana a bad influence on Casey would be simplifying their relationship, which I don’t want to do. Shana is the leader, and for better or for worse Casey has followed her blindly. Over the course of the novel Casey needs to learn to come out from under Shana’s shadow, and see that for all the good things their friendship has brought her, the bad might just outweigh them.
Overall I think I liked Vega’s previous novel The Mericless better. The Merciless’s demonic possession vibe played a lot more to my interests. But if you’re looking for a quick little horror story in the vein of The Descent then give this book a read.
And remember kids, don’t do drugs.
So what was that thing?
For a long time now, monster horror has a special place in my heart. I could wax nostalgic for a long time how monsters tend to represent something dark/scary in the protagonist or in people in general. Just look at the pages upon pages of theories that surround the Alien franchise.
But what does the thing lurking underneath the NYC streets represent in Survive the Night, hell what even is it?
Vega is playing with a lot of different things here and I both love and hate what she’s trying to do. By never giving us a good look or explanation of her massive-tentacle-waving-body-stealing-thing, she’s leaving a lot to the reader’s imagination. Remember how the killer is always way scarier when you don’t know who or what it is? By not giving us that eventual unmasking/ face review Vega is leaving her monster fully grounded in our psyches. Whatever your mind comes up with is fully tailored to your personal fears and will ALWAYS be scarier than what ever the author/director/game designer intended.
That being said. I WANT TO KNOW! Vega gives you small glimpses of information through what her characters experience but you’re never offered one look at the big picture. As I mentioned in my review, this would work really well on screen, but it doesn’t translate as well in text. Given the nature of the creature and the lack of information in the writing style, Survive the Night has some serious Lovecraftian undertones.
So the way I see it, the thing in the tunnels is like a cross between Cthulhu, the Kraken, the Master from the Strain and well… the White Walkers from A Song of Ice and Fire. Is it creepy? Yes. Did it deserve better? Probably.
I hope at some point Vega revisits the world of this story and gives us another glimpse at her creature. There’s leaving things to the imagination and then there’s just being cruel.
“Seriously,” Shana says. She swings her leg, kicking a wave of greasy water. “It was too easy when we were just trapped Underground with a serial killer. Now we get to be trapped underground in a flooded tunnel with a serial killer” (170)