Will Byrnes's Reviews > The Cabin at the End of the World

The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay
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it was amazing
bookshelves: horror, fiction, fantasy, science-fiction

When the end is near will you know it? Will signs appear to show it? And what sort of end will it be? Ice or fire? Conflagration? Land consumed by an angry sea? And what if there’s uncertainty? What if this is not the result of that, but just the way things are, under no one’s control to cause or prevent? And if there is no control, what is the role of those who speak on behalf of an unseen power? Do they suffer from confusion, perhaps delusion? Can we take them at their word? What if they insist we go along with their intrusion, even though we’ve reached a very different conclusion? Lines are drawn when the mad demand our subjugation. What sort of god could allow such things and still insist on adoration?

Paul Tremblay - image from Litreactor.com

Wenling (Wen) will be eight years old in a few days. She and her two daddies, Eric and Andrew, are away from it all, up from Cambridge, at a cabin in northern New Hampshire, near the Canadian border.
Her dads chose this place because there would be no Wi-fi or cell reception so they could unplug and it would be just the three of them hanging out, swimming, talking, playing cards or board games without any digital distractions.
Peace and quiet, no nearby neighbors, plenty of grasshoppers. Wen is outside collecting some in a jar, to study. She is even giving them names, and making sure to pick smaller ones that will not damage themselves on the jagged edges of the air holes she’s poked in the metal lid. Out of nowhere a very large man appears, Leonard. He might be taller than anyone she has ever met, and he’s as wide as a couple of tree trunks pushed together. He is soft spoken and seems kind, even helps her collect some specimens. But Leonard is (like the Blues Brothers) on a mission from god. He has three other people with him.
Your dads won’t want to let us in, Wen, but they have to. Tell them they have to. We are not here to hurt you. We need your help to save the world. Please.
Well, in that case, sure, come on in…or not. Wen, alarmed, runs to tell her dads. The four insist on entering. The dads are determined to keep them out, and the siege is on.

Image from ZD Net

An apocalypse is coming and these four are both heralds and, potentially, agents of prevention. Were the voices they all heard some common mental illness, an alien intrusion, or truly a sign from you-know-who? That the world seems to be going to hell quickly in a dramatically large handbasket lends them some credence, but what they are asking is unthinkable.

Tremblay has written detective novels, scores of short stories and a few horror books, all while keeping his day job, schoolteacher. Perhaps because of having to deal with adolescents at work and at home, he is fond of horror story tropes. In A Head Full of Ghosts he became one with the demonic possession tale. For a later work, Disappearance at Devil’s Rock, he considered what sort of things would most terrify him personally. And the winner was missing child, every parent’s nightmare. This time he took on another favorite source of terror. ‘How would I do a home invasion novel I’d like to read?’ I guarantee you have not read one like this one before.

Image from JoeCruzMM.files.wordpress.com

The intent doesn’t matter much if you do not care about those in the home being invaded. No problem. Wen is edible, and her daddies are a very human couple, with affection and edges reasonably distributed. Details of their lives make you care for them more and more. And you will have cause for concern, as they are facing very real, very existential immediate peril.

There are plenty of elements in common with the usual home invasion horrors. Wondering if your invaders are nuts, fearing for your life and the lives of your loved ones, trying to figure out ways to get the better of the baddies. What is different is that the home invaders do not seem to be evil people, despite the most definitely evil-looking scythe-like weaponry they tote. (When the going gets seriously tough, the seriously tough get going to FourHorsemenOutfitters.com, your goto provider for your end-times needs. Tribulation-free ordering guaranteed) Leonard, the leader, seems particularly reasonable, a gentle giant, nice even. They might be insane, but what if they are not? There are reasons offered to consider the latter possibility. The other three are definitely equipped with good sides too, but a bit less manifestly than their leader.

Study for the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, 19th century - by John Martin
image from the Indiana University Art Museum Provenance Project

Any fine meal is composed of a range of ingredients. Here we have the terror of the invaded, the unexpected facets of the invaders and a big, overarching scare. Is it real or not? But there are other items spicing up this read. There is consideration of faith, religion, and how far one will go in service of one’s beliefs. It is tough not to see the four horsemen imagery in the four invaders, but there are other, more subtle spices at play. A motif of sevens permeates. There are sundry references to other novels that offer some food for thought. Tim O’Brien’s Lake of the Woods is one. There are others. Do we believe what we see or see what we believe?

Image from Sleepyhollow.wikia.com

This book will keep you guessing. Is this the end of the world? Or maybe just a potential end for some. Tremblay offers an explanation, but can we accept it? The ambiguity provides a constant tension from the first encounter to the last page. There may not be a mysterious voice telling you to get your hands on this one as soon as you can, and read it as quickly as possible. But whether you hear one or not, this will be one of the best reads of the summer and you do not really know how much time you have left.

Review posted – 3/16/18

Publication date – 6/26/18

=============================EXTRA STUFF

Links to the author’s personal, Twitter and FB pages

He has a story collection coming out in 2019, and his next novel in 2020.

An excerpt - from Entertainment Weekly

I sure hope Tremblay doesn’t take a shovel to my review. But if he does, I hope he tapes it.

-----In this video interview put out by his publisher, Morrow, Tremblay talks mostly about two earlier novels, but gets into how this one came about, offering insight into his approach – 27:50
-----Providence College – an audio interview at his alma mater - From Fractions to Fiction - 42:15
-----Excerpts from a Locus Magazine interview – print - Paul Tremblay: Aftermath
-----Audio interview – Friday Morning Coffee – June 16, 2017 – with Daniel Ford – 21:01
-----Print interview at LitReactor.com - 10 Questions with Paul Tremblay - 6/2/15 – by Keith Rawson

----- Book Studio 16 is a Harper department that produces a video series in which someone whose opinion I value above all speaks about a handful of (usually) upcoming books. At -24.19 to -18:18, the queen of the show talks about The Cabin at the End of the World, but I suggest you watch the entire vid. (about 34 minutes) You might find even more books to add to your ever-growing TBR.

The Harper Book Queen included a bit on this book in her TBR Tuesdays FB live broadcast from 7/31/18 - at 9:50
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Reading Progress

February 9, 2018 – Started Reading
February 27, 2018 – Shelved
February 27, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read
February 27, 2018 – Shelved as: horror
February 28, 2018 – Finished Reading
June 9, 2018 – Shelved as: fiction
July 8, 2018 – Shelved as: fantasy
July 8, 2018 – Shelved as: science-fiction

Comments Showing 1-50 of 63 (63 new)

message 1: by Jay (new) - added it

Jay Great review, Will. I gotta read this one...

Will Byrnes Thanks, Jay. This one's a keeper.

message 3: by Mike (new) - added it

Mike A fantastic review, Will. Keeping this one in mind.

Will Byrnes Thanks, Mike

message 5: by Diane (new)

Diane Wallace Impressive review, Will!

Will Byrnes Thanks, Diane. Impressive book.

message 7: by Christine (new) - added it

Christine Wonderful review. I'm certainly going to add this book right now! Sounds fascinating!

Will Byrnes Thanks, Christine. It is a fascinating read indeed.

message 9: by Debra (new) - added it

Debra Another book I need to read NOW! Fabulous Review, Will! You have piqued my interest.

message 10: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes Thanks, Debra. Fabulous book.

Karen’s Library This is going on my TBR list. Great review!

message 12: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes Thanks, Karen

message 13: by Tammy (new)

Tammy Thanks, Wil! I’ve been warily eyeing this. Your review is helpful

message 14: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes Always a lovely thing to be found helpful.

message 15: by Cheri (new)

Cheri Excellent review, Will - your reviews are *always* helpful. I am glad to see you have this categorized as 'horror,' as tempting as you make this sound, I need my sleep!

Kimberly I can't wait for this one. Tremblay is a favorite of mine.

message 17: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes Cheri wrote: "Excellent review, Will - your reviews are *always* helpful. I am glad to see you have this categorized as 'horror,' as tempting as you make this sound, I need my sleep!"
Thanks Cheri. Yep, definitely horror. Not conducive to restful nights.

message 18: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes Kimberly wrote: "I can't wait for this one. Tremblay is a favorite of mine."
This was my first by Tremblay, so I can't offer a comparison to his earlier work, other than in the broadest of strokes. But if his earlier work is as good as this one, those books must be excellent reads.

message 19: by Tara (new)

Tara Thanks for the review! I've read A Head Full of Ghosts by Tremblay and I loved it! I will definitely be reading this one too

message 20: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes Tara wrote: "Thanks for the review! I've read A Head Full of Ghosts by Tremblay and I loved it! I will definitely be reading this one too"
Thank you, Tara. This is a good one.

message 21: by Lilo (new)

Lilo "... and you do not really know how much time you have left."

Will, it's about time you stop listening to the news. I only have apocalyptic dreams. And now you even start reading apocalyptic books.

message 22: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes I started a long time ago, and have read a fair share of such things. I am less worried about a biblical Armageddon or a full on nuclear exchange than I am that Trump will attempt to fix the November mid-terms, and, failing that, claim that the rejection of Swamp Thing and his minions is the result of a Democratic plot, and try to vacate the results. There is a chance, of course, that he will indulge in a convenient war to try to get the American people behind him, likelier Iran than Korea, IMHO, as Iran does not have nukes. If John Bolton is put into any position of authority the chance of such a war triples. Does not make for restful nights.

message 23: by Fred (new)

Fred Great review again

message 24: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes Thanks, Fred

message 25: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes Thanks, Selu

message 26: by J.M. (new) - added it

J.M. Lanham Great review, Will. Definitely checking this one out soon.

message 27: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes Thanks, J.M.

Catherine ♡ I’m about thirty pages into this and your review is making me really excited for the rest!

message 29: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes It’s a pretty exciting book

message 30: by Tammy (new)

Tammy Great review, Will. Glad you liked it. I read it and had a different experience. I didn’t even bother to rate or review it.

message 31: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes Ah, well. Different strokes.

Jaidee (Away from Goodreads until Feb 2...happy reading) A thoroughly entertaining review Will ! Thanx for the care and time you put in !

message 33: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes Thank you, Jaidee

Beverly What!!??? This sounds tremendous Will. I love this genre anyway, but you've described something very special, it's going on my tbr.

message 35: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes It is special, indeed.

message 36: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes Thanks, Leslie. You are in for a treat.

message 37: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes Thanks again, Leslie

message 38: by Karen (new)

Karen I added this one because of your awesome review Will!😊

message 39: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes Thanks, Karen

Constantine sounds amazing. great review Will

message 41: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes Thanks, Constantine

message 42: by jaden (new)

jaden great review will

message 43: by Teddy (new)

Teddy  hi

message 44: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes jaden wrote: "great review will"
Thanks, Jaden

message 45: by 16-Bit (new) - added it

16-Bit People Marvellous review, Will! I'm adding this to my wishlist.

message 46: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes Thanks, Word

message 47: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes Thanks, Leslie. Yes, there is a plot, from the arrival of a threat, to the presentation of different views of what is going on, to surviving the threat, or not, to emerging, or trying to emerge, from the danger.

Lindsay Law Your review is way better than the book itself...not nearly as captivating.

message 49: by Will (last edited Jul 18, 2018 09:12PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes Glad you liked the review, but I guess we disagree about the book. Not every book is right for every reader.

message 50: by Paula (new)

Paula Excellent review, Will. I read his Head full of ghosts I believe?

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