Cabin at the End of the World
Written by: Paul Tremblay
Reviewed by: Joe Bones
Genre: Horror / Suspense
Tremblay’s newest novel departs from his usual subject matter, the supernatural, and enters the realm of the apocalyptic. Similarly to his other novels, this subject is handled in a very cerebral way. The horror in Tremblay’s novels is more psychological than macabre. Cabin at the End of the World is no exception.
This novel’s story opens on two fathers with their adopted Chinese daughter. The family has rented a cabin and is looking forward to a peaceful vacation. Midway through their stay, they are approached by four strangers carrying unusual hand-made weapons. The strangers tell the family that the end of the world is coming. The family must choose one of their own to be willingly sacrificed in order to prevent the apocalypse.
Tensions are high after the strangers make their proclamation and the suspense continues to increase throughout the second and third acts. Tremblay gives the reader just enough detail to keep them hooked while never revealing too much. The perspective switches between the three family members, and occasionally one of the strangers, culminating in an interesting style of plot development. The character development adds to the narrative without stealing focus from the situation in which the family finds themselves. Switching between perspectives also keeps the reader unsure how reliable any of the characters are as narrators, thus further increasing the suspense.
Although incredibly engaging, this novel did have one large flaw. The majority of the book is written in third-person variable as the perspective shifts between characters. Yet toward the end there are several first-person chapters, and a random third-person limited chapter. This change in literary point-of-view disrupts the flow of the story just when the mystery of the novel is being unveiled. As a result, a climax that should be wholly satisfying after a masterful build up is rendered confusing.
This novel has an ending that readers will either love or hate. The conclusions of Tremblay’s novels are never straight-forward. Even with this prior knowledge, I personally found the ending to be a bit of a let down. Though I will say that the ending does fit with the overall tone of the novel, the narrative just didn’t end the way I thought it would and as a result I was left wanting.
Despite the negatives I’ve mentioned, Cabin at the End of the World is a very well done thriller with a polarizing ending. With all the dystopian fiction that exists, it is nice to read a story about the build up to a potential cataclysm. The suspenseful narrative is woven together well and Tremblay spices it up further with scenes of restrained horror. Regardless how the reader feels upon completing the novel, Cabin at the End of the World is certainly worth the read.