Beyond the Horizons:
The Civil War was Just the Beginning
By Douglas Boren
The exciting cover of Beyond the Horizons by Douglas Boren immediately attracted me. I expected an adventurous fictional war story. But I discovered so much more! I found an obviously well researched major literary novel of the period in our history, both before the end and after the Civil War, as the nation pushed further west to colonize new lands. In fact, those that enjoyed Into the West on television should consider this book as a must-read. The time period may be the same; however, the characters and storyline are sufficiently different to explore this author’s unique presentation.
This is not an exciting book; it is not one that you read straight through because of the action-packed suspense and mystery. It includes significant historical coverage of the times and settings chosen. In fact, although it is not footnoted, as would be a nonfiction book of the period, much of Beyond the Horizons could stand as a significant research narrative.
Some of the book is extremely hard to read—its graphic images of actual war experiences are far worse than any fictional tale. Why? Well, the reader is drawn into the war stories in such detail that when actual events are described, they are more realistic—more naked. Even though they may be created images by the author, you are not quite sure—did these things actually happen in America? Can “man” actually be as evil as this? The shudders you experience are more real because you know that the characters were once alive…and died…protecting and fighting for what they believed in. The author’s underlying distinction between good and evil characters is presented in “overkill,” perhaps to ensure his readers realize that horrific evil exists and can overtake no matter in what war you fight or where you are. He succeeded! But this definitely makes it an adult-level book.
If you have ever bonded with a friend, so much so that you feel they have become your brother or sister, then you can visualize the primary characters in this book. Knowing that these rare and special friendships come with only one or two individuals in a lifetime, Douglas Boren uses that type of friendship to create men and women who are the backbone for good. You recognize these individuals immediately, whether they are main or minor characters. At the same time, Boren’s evil characters are inexplicably just as real to you. In addition to the enemy apache snake dancers, there are men within the ranks of the soldiers and in their families, whose pride, ego, arrogance and selfishness result in just as many deaths or just as much abuse as do the “supposed” enemies defined by the war.
Readers—be aware that I have not even started telling you about the story!
In fact, the storyline is one of the few things that is not surprising, since most of us are at least minimally aware of the historical details of the Civil and Indian Wars. And, as expected there are several “boy-meets-girl” intrigues. What I want to share instead are actual excerpts that, in my mind, were especially illustrative and compelling.
One poor Yankee soldier was seen loading and reloading as if in a trance and firing straight up into the air. Finally, a rebel from Texas bayoneted him. P. 16
To his left Mace saw a fellow rebel shot in the mouth, his tongue nearly shot out. He pulled a part of it that was hanging ragged to the edge and cut it off with his knife. Growling, he charged into the smoke, and Mace never saw him again. P. 54-55
The Apache grinned a sardonic grin and tore the seat of the outhouse off. He then threw the preacher into the cesspool of feces, urine, and filth. It was deep and his head sank under it as he drowned in the stuff. P. 171
Every Apache male was drilled from childhood in the primary virtues of cunning and toughness—the twin sources of his people’s strength…He was taught that trickery ranked above pure courage. P.183
The snake pit became the center for their religious activities… P. 214
Yes…the intestines…He wasn’t sure, but he thought it must be about 30 feet. If he could cut them out of the dead Indian and stretch them out he could use them as a rope to climb down the cliff. P. 248
Boren effectively uses a little-known fact to transition his main characters from the Civil to the Indian Wars. That is, during the Civil War, the Federal Government offered southern prisoners the chance to move west and fight the Indians rather than continue in prison. Since many were already seeing that the south was losing the war, they chose to accept this opportunity to continue to fight for what they believed in—to ensure men and women were able to live, protected and secure, wherever they wished.
I can’t imagine that any war re-enactor would want to miss this book, for it could serve as one of their textbooks! For lovers of gruesome adventure, action and suspense, tales of the Snake Dancers can’t be beat!
Beyond the Horizons is too graphic to be totally enjoyed; too good not to be read. This is an epic story of good men’s continual battle against evil men—whether they are rebels, Indians, or terrorists. This is a Today Book based upon yesterday’s terror. You need to read it!
G. A. Bixler