Review: The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay
This book is often gushed over - a home invasion story, supposedly terrifying. Includes a cult, some crazy twists and turns. Apparently, one of the best horrors ever as voted by readers...let's put them to the test.
A small family are vacationing at a remote cabin on a quiet New Hampshire lake. Their closest neighbours are more than two miles in either direction along a rutted dirt road. One afternoon, a stranger unexpectedly appears in the driveway. He says, "none of what’s going to happen is your fault". Three more strangers then arrive at the cabin carrying unidentifiable, menacing objects. As the child sprints inside to warn her parents, Leonard calls out: "Your dads won’t want to let us in, Wen. But they have to. We need your help to save the world."
How the mighty fall. My expectations were high for this book. Not only is it a book consistently brought up as a recommendation by horror readers, but it's also a book that non-horror readers flock to to test out the genre. On top of that, Tremblay was the recipient of the Bram Stoker award for best novel in 2018, and The Cabin at the End of the World was nominated to sit amongst the best horror novels on Goodreads in 2018. So yes, my expectations were understandably elevated!
The book is told from three different perspectives: seven year-old Wen, and her two adoptive fathers, Andrew and Eric. Unfortunately, telling the story from multiple perspectives felt completely pointless, as the characters were generally always in the same room (seeing as the entire book occurs in a cabin), and their perspectives were near enough the same. We never got to read from the perspectives of those that were invading their cabin, therefore the same side of the story was being told. Equally, the book was not written in first person, so this seemed like a missed opportunity for us to delve into any one character to understand their emotions and actions at any given time.
The story has some potential, but the execution was tiresome. I felt like I was waiting for something, and in the process of waiting, there was a painful amount of repetition. I cannot begin to understand how the same conversations were repeated over and over in the book. There was a lot of time spent having the invaders trying to convince this family to do something...and their repeated response was no. This was essentially the entirety of the plot for 250 pages. The other 50 pages was the little girl being nice and us waiting for some horror. Speaking of which, let's talk about the horror in this horror. Not horrible. When I think of a home invasion story, I conjure up images of torture and extreme violence (maybe I should talk to someone about that). But this was tame horror at an absolute stretch.
Unless you prefer your horrors on the tamer side, don't bother with this read. There are much better ways to spend your time than reading the same conversation over and over again. The horror severely lacks, the characters (although well developed) have been written in a way that makes the story execution poor and the ending was anticlimactic. There are other books in this genre that are a better showcase for what it has to offer!