On a warm summer afternoon, Wen is capturing grasshoppers in a jar near the cabin rented by her fathers. Fully intending to return the grasshoppers to their native habitat after she’s done naming and studying them, Wen finds her peaceful afternoon interrupted by the arrival of four strangers.
Taking her fathers and Wen prisoner at the isolated cabin (cell service is non-existent), the four strangers say they’ve come to ask an extraordinary favor of Wen and her fathers. One of them must willingly sacrifice themselves in the next few hours or else there will be serious consequences to their captors and the planet as a whole.
A slow-burn of ever-increasing horror, Paul Tremblay’s The Cabin at the End of the World slowly draws you in and then dares you to look away as things slowly spiral out of control. Tremblay spends the first third of the book developing Wen, her fathers, and their captors so that, even while you don’t agree with this decisions and choices, you understand their motivation and what’s brought them to this brutal crossroads. Exposing old fears, long-held resentments, and areas of their relationships that probably would be better staying hidden, each character is stripped down during the course of the standoff.
The first chapters are almost hypnotic, but once the revelations come, they’re well paced and well earned by Tremblay. The master of modern horror, Stephen King, called this Tremblay’s best offering to date. And while I’m not sure I necessarily agree (A Head Full of Ghosts haunted me in ways this one didn’t. But that’s probably just a matter of personal preference), this is still one of the more haunting page-turners I’ve read this year.
When Stephen King tweets out that a book scared him, it immediately rockets to the top of my to-be-read pile. I love a good scare — and Paul Tremblay’s A Head Full of Ghosts is just that.
The Barrett family seem like the typical, all-American family. That is until their fourteen year-old-daughter begins exhibiting signs of a potential possession. As questions of whether or not this is a mental-illness or a possession by a demon begin to mount, the family resorts to desperate measures — not only conducting an exorcism but also allowing cameras into the house to record the events leading up to it and the exorcism itself.
The only survivor of these events is Merry, who years later reflects on the events and her role in them with a series of interviews.
From the beginning, we know there is some horrible secret hanging over the Barrett family. And Tremblay builds a palpable sense of dread as the story continues to unfold, all the while making us question the nature of reality — from reality television shows that are edited to tell the best story to just what exactly is going on with the Barrett family. There were times that the sense of dread at what was going to happen on the next page reminded me of my first reading of Stephen King’s Cujo in my teenage years.
And yet for all the building dread and horror, A Head Full of Ghosts is keenly aware of its place within the horror pantheon. Referencing multiple horror movies and tropes, the novel breaks them down and builds them up again to give the reader a bit of gallows humor all while ratcheting the feeling of dread up a few points higher.
It all leads to a final act that is among the more memorable and unsettling I’ve read in quite a while. I can see why this novel scared Stephen King because it certainly left me feeling scared and unsettled.
And yet it’s a book that I wholeheartedly recommend — as long as you’re not faint of heart. It’s compelling, horrifying and utterly readable. Simply put — one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.
Thinking her fourteen year-old son Tommy is spending the night at one of his best friend’s house, Elizabeth Sanderson in disturbed to receive a phone call saying her son has gone missing. As the shock sets in, Elizabeth can’t help but feel that history is repeating itself. Tommy’s father vanished in the night years before. Could it be that her son has followed in his father’s footsteps?
The answers are far more compelling and interesting than that and they make this book one that was, at times, next to impossible to put down. Add in an element of the potential supernatural and you’ve got the another winner from Paul Tremblay — an author who after reading just two of his books has been put onto my “must read anything he writes list” and whom I eagerly seeking you his back catalog.
Paul Tremblay’s Disappearance at Devil’s Rock starts with a heck of hook and doesn’t let up until the final page is turned. The question of how well you really know your kids and your family haunts every page of the novel and drives much of this superlatively told, suspenseful mystery. Like his earlier haunting A Head Full of Ghosts this is one of those novels that defies categorization beyond “a really good book that everyone should read.” Continue reading