Riley Sager: Survive the Night (2021, Dutton, Penguin Random House) 3 stars

Review of 'Survive the Night' on 'Goodreads'

2 stars

This was a quick little thriller that caught my eye—mainly its cover—but also the interesting premise. The story follows Charlie Jordan, a college student who is on her way home following her inability to deal with trauma from a tragedy. She accepts a ride from a stranger who is not at all who he seems to be. The author stated in the acknowledgments that this novel is his love letter not only to classic movies but also to the time period of the novel, November 1991. The mention of Alfred Hitchcock in the blurb alone further piqued my interest. While this wasn’t an exceptional novel, it was a decent enough read that I was able to get through pretty quickly. (Maybe it helped me get out of my reading slump.)

The characters are a bit on the mundane and forgettable side, and most don’t have extremely complex sides. For the most part, their personalities and characterizations are predictable and simple. The main character, Charlie, loves movies—and that’s the main feature we as a reader glean about her, aside from the fact that she had a personal connection to her roommate, Maddy, who has been murdered before the events of the novel. Still, Charlie falls into a lot of classic horror/thriller tropes—at times she is TSTL and acts against the clear line of logic she herself deduces.

Because of that, I decided to take Jayme’s cue, and treat this as more of a movie than a book. I wish I could have visualized the book—that would have made it a lot more engaging, I imagine. I highly recommend other readers do the same—don’t take this book seriously, turn off your mind for a bit, and enjoy the ride.

The plot was fairly predictable and the mystery elements weren’t difficult even for me, and I don’t read that many mystery/thriller novels—I enjoy them but I am no aficionado. Still, I had turned my brain off for this book and I was able to get lost in the fairly quick-paced action. Though the first part of the book struggles to get off the ground, with a lot of internal monologues and thinking on Charlie’s part. There was a certain aspect of the ending I enjoyed, and it felt like a decent way to end things—I’ll leave it at that.

I have not read anything else by this author and I am not entirely compelled to, but this was a decent enough read—though it could have used a lot of refinement if the author wanted to take it up a level. It feels like a solid summer blockbuster type of movie—the kind where you can just sit back and watch without having to think too hard. I probably won’t remember reading this a few weeks down the road, but at least I’ll recall the nice cover and the numerous film and 90s references. Some reviewers called the references a bit too many and that they felt forced, and I might even agree, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying them anyway. I feel like going and watching some more classic cinema now.