Beyond The Door (2011) Book Review
Beyond The Door (2011)
Author: Jeffrey Thomas
Reviewer: Gabino Iglesias
Available from Dark Fuse
My Rating: 8.5 out of 10
Changing the way narratives are delivered can be a dangerous exercise for an author. The practice takes readers away from their comfort zone and leaves them guessing while they become familiar with the new style. However, Jeffrey Thomas’ combination of talent and imagination allows the author to pull it off brilliantly in Beyond the Door. The book could arguably be considered a collection of short stories, but Thomas puts all the tales within the context of a grander plot and ties them together with cohesive elements in a way that it reads like one narrative.
In Beyond the Door, two strangers meet in a train station’s bathroom. The rushed atmosphere of the public restroom mixed with a small door mishap throws them into an uncomfortable situation and they exchange a few unpleasant words. However, instead of having an escalating argument or recurring to violence, their conversation soon becomes something entirely different and, with the animosity gone, they begin to swap stories. All the anecdotes begin the same way; with the narrator saying “Where I come from…” After that, each tale becomes its own being. There’s a horror house in which real death occurs, a family that turns into something unusual and very sinister, a carnival that might or might not be real and for which the laws of nature and time don’t apply, a collection of unique artifacts, strange lights in the sky and much more. Each story provides one element that the subsequent narrator uses as a linking factor, giving the sense that all the stories, diverse as they are, share something. As the tête-à-tête spirals to its inevitable conclusion, what the two men are sharing seems to almost merge. In the end, what happens inside that public restroom might be as unbelievable as the accounts that were shared.
Beyond the Door starts like a regular novel and then quickly enters the realm of the bizarre. In this territory, Thomas shines. What follows “Where I come from…” constantly becomes more disturbing, entertaining and bizarre. The fact that the two individuals are talking through a door in a public bathroom adds a touch of absurdity and mystery that keeps the reader guessing well into the book. Also, given the book’s manageable length, the sequence of events comes fast and within a reasonable timeframe, making the reader feel like he or she is an invisible witness to the strange conversation.
Thomas has a knack for the uncanny and his clean prose paints even the most fantastic tales with something akin to the ring of truth. There is a bit of science fiction here, along with a healthy dose of horror, some humor and what can only be called urban legends. In other words, there’s something for everyone.
Beyond the Door provides willing readers with a very interesting, almost immersive experience full of tales that are entirely out of the ordinary. This is dark literature at its most entertaining. Definitely worth a read.