Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Last Night by Nico Rosso

TITLE: The Last Night
AUTHOR: Nico Rosso
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 40k)
GENRE: Horror erotic romance
COST: $3.59

The world is not like it was. Earthquakes have torn apart the earth’s center, releasing toxins into the air that have changed some people to monsters of stone who eat ash. Those who survived hide away, trying not to become the next victims, but resources are scarce and the monsters can’t be killed. Erica has banded together with a group of others, hiding away in a ruined hotel, determined to fight as long as possible. The despair that takes over so many seems like it might have a reprieve when a man on a motorcycle shows up in the middle of a fight, with weapons that actually leave the monsters for dead. Erica wants to learn how he does it, but Jake isn’t willing to give up his only bargaining chip for free. At least, until he realizes that maybe he doesn’t have to fight alone anymore…

This is not your typical romance. No flowery language, no prolonged dwelling on emotions. It might not be to everybody’s taste, but man, it sure was to mine.

The story starts out with Erica on the cusp of another fight. Night is beginning to fall, and the ashers, the name they’ve given the ash-eating stone-fleshed monsters that some humans mutated to, are attacking. Nothing kills them, but they do what they can to hold them back until they get tired or look for easier prey. In the middle of yet another night of this, an unknown man on a motorcycle drives into the scene, swinging blows left and right that take down the monsters. His name is Jake, and he’s discovered a way to kill them. He offers the information at a trade – he needs supplies just as much as the next person – and his mercenary ways really turn Erica off. There’s a connection between them, though, a recognition of fighter to fighter, and eventually Jake shows Erica the trick anyway. He decides to spend the night, but his bike has opened up a possibility for her that she’s desperate to realize.

The first thing the reader will notice is the author’s terse style. Sentences are short, usually simple, and dwell on the visceral rather than the cerebral. That doesn’t work for every kind of story – it certainly didn't for the first story I read by this author a year ago – but it does for this post-apocalyptic horror one. It creates an urgency both in the action and the emotions, and it worked to suck me into each moment as it played out within the plot.

It also helped to put me straight into Erica and Jake’s shoes. They are the fighting spirit of this, those that don’t want to dwell on what they’ve lost but instead find a way to survive in this new world order. These are the doers, the ones that legends are created about, and together, they form the core of what turns the tide for this small band of humans. I loved how the basis of Jake’s feelings for Erica stems from how brilliant she is fighting. He saw straight to the heart of her, more than anybody else ever did. Erica, on the other hand, was far more guarded about her emotions and trusting Jake as explicitly as he did her. The give and take of this brief acquaintance as it blazed into something hotter was a treat to watch.

My only quibbles come toward the end where I found it a little predictable as to what would happen. I won’t spoil, but there was one moment of discord between Jake and Erica that had me thinking, “Oh, please don’t have him…” and then he went and did the predictable thing I wished he hadn’t (not because it didn’t make sense or was a bad move but that it felt a little trite considering how unpredictable it had been up to that point). I wondered last year if the author’s voice would come across better with a better editor, and I think this proves it will. It still won't work well for less action-oriented stuff, but for this particular story, it was more than enough.


8/10 – A terse, no-nonsense voice seems atypical for the genre, but works in this context


8/10 – Love that what he loves about her is her fight not just her looks


8/10 – Honorable when she doesn’t even know it, a real fighter

Entertainment value

8/10 – Honestly, got so wrapped up in it all that it gave me nightmares

World building

9/10 – Dark, visceral, and horrifying



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