The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay: A Review
As my first completed book of 2019, I freely admit I started it at the end of 2018 (back on 28 Dec) as a group I’m in on Goodreads is having a discussion about it over January with the author. I read this over the course of a week, although if taken without any breaks it was more like 3 days, and surprised myself how quickly I got through it. I was reading the Kindle version having grabbed it fairly cheap over Christmas.
It doesn’t have traditional chapters, which confuses the Kindle reader, moreover it has larger sections broken down into smaller parts that are entitled with the character who’s viewpoint the passage is in. I’m not a fan of labelling the point of view and prefer to figure it out simply from the text itself however in this case it became useful towards the end of the novel when the action ramps up.
The story follows an ordeal that besets Wen and her two fathers, Andrew and Eric, when a group of strangers appear at their remote holiday cabin asking for their help to halt the apocalypse. Violence is inevitable from the moment the sinister Leonard starts asking Wen odd questions in the front yard as she catches grasshoppers and the likelihood escalates as three more strangers appear and Wen runs in to her dads to tell them.
After forceably entering the cabin and restraining Andrew and Eric, Leonard et al tell their tale of visions and instructions that lead them all to this “special family” in the cabin with the red door and that, without them, the world will shortly end. Without spoiling any further goings on, what faces the group is a desperate struggle to grapple with damning information and inexplicable actions.
While an entertaining read, I wouldn’t describe this as ‘horror’ as many others have. It isn’t scary or particularly disturbing; similar to ‘Head Full of Ghosts’, the book looks at what is a variation on events that have almost undoubtedly happened somewhere at some time in modern history. If you find it disturbing that humans can do terrible things to each other then you may want to consider if you are too naive for Tremblay’s work.
Across both ‘Head Full of Ghosts’ and ‘The Cabin at the End of the World’, Tremblay’s prose paints a dim view of organised religion and the part it has to play in the atrocious things people do to one another. While it’s primarily focused on Christianity or adjacent faiths, the impression remains that it extends to all organised monotheist religions prevalent in the world today. Whether this is a reflection of the author or simply an easy thread to pull on to add an extra dimension to his stories, I couldn’t say.
Overall the prose is well written, with the exception of the let’s-hyphenate-a-bunch-of-words-together tendency that crops up a few times throughout the book. If you’ve read ‘Head Full of Ghosts’, you may remember the last minute almost twist at the end and ‘The Cabin…’ has a similar mechanism in the last pages. It made me consider the similarities in composition between the two books and, while they tell two different tales, there are a fair few.
In terms of rating, I find myself perhaps a little too cynical for Tremblay’s books as none of the content surprises or disturbs me as the genre classifications suggests they should. It has made me wonder if the author wrote these intending to disturb or intending merely to shine a light and point out the horrible things that occur in everyday society. While I’d definitely consider reading more of his work, I shan’t expect to be scared by it.
This review is also on Goodreads: here.