Nineteen eerie short stories from an award-winning writer who clearly embraces literary horror fully.
No lie: The Cabin at the End of the World (2018) was a tough read because it's terrifying in an unusual way, so it’s not a surprise that these frighteningly imaginative slices of horror are often far more chilling than their relatively mundane inspirations. Tremblay, like Joe Hill, Chuck Wendig, Richard Kadrey, and their ilk, is among the best in the literary business but chooses to play in a fairly specific genre, which is pretty much horror taken to another plane. Well-written, yes. But scary as hell, which is an equally admirable trick to accomplish. The title story shows up first, depicting a slow apocalypse via invasive plants not as a panorama but as one family’s bitter end. It also contains the book’s most frightening line: “There are no more stories.” Next is “Swim Wants to Know If It’s as Bad as Swim Thinks,” portraying a junkie—SWIM is a cipher for “someone who isn’t me”—who’s trying to describe her addiction online even as some monster might be nearby. We get a couple of hardcore crime stories in “The Getaway,” in which a knockoff artist is struggling to escape his brother’s shadow, and “Nineteen Snapshots of Dennisport,” which might as well have been a deleted scene from Scorsese’s The Departed. The best, most challenging stories are completely meta. “Notes for ‘The Barn in the Wild’ ” details the Blair Witch Project–esque journey of someone trying to get to the bottom of a story while “Something About Birds” finds a writer launching a zine delving into the mysterious history of a famous writer, all structured in unexpected ways. The rest are creepfests inspired by everything from Poe to Lovecraft to King. There’s a little fan service as well—a character who seems to be Karen Brissette from Tremblay’s A Head Full of Ghosts waxes eloquent about the horror genre in the extended “Notes From the Dog Walkers” while the memorable Merry from the same earlier book anchors the equally creepy “The Thirteenth Temple.”
From high fantasy to monsters to (literally) Hellboy, something for everyone who digs things that go bump in the night.