Scaring people for a living is no easy feat, especially in the age of cell phones and social media. In fact, it’s even been argued that the existence of cell phones has ruined the horror genre as a whole!
When we think of horror, we typically think of one name: Stephen King. And for good reason, of course – he has a whole run of books (and TV shows and movies and…) that are truly terrifying. I mean, there’s a reason everyone knows The Shining, Carrie, IT, Cujo, and Pet Sematary, just to name a few. He is the Master of Horror, after all.
But what if I told you that there is an author out there whose books are so terrifying that they scared even the Master of Horror himself? An author that is so knowledgeable of the horror genre that he’s been able to tackle all kinds of different horror tropes in 3 distinct-yet-equally-terrifying novels and a brand new short story collection?
Enter Paul Tremblay, award-winning author of A Head Full of Ghosts, The Disappearance at Devil’s Rock, The Cabin at the End of the World, and the brand new short story collection Growing Things. In all of his works, he’s tackled issues like social media, political rhetoric, mental illness, and the publishing scene as a whole with bone-chillingly frightening tales. I am a massive fan of the horror genre, and Paul Tremblay might just be my favourite writer right now. He’s that good. Want to learn more? Follow us… if you dare.
Social media, reality TV, and exorcisms
A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
Alright, let’s start off with the doozy – the book that Stephen King claims “scared the living hell out of me.” This book is basically the 21st century’s answer to The Exorcist. When a teenage girl starts to do some rather odd things – you know, become withdrawn, become violent toward herself and others, speak in tongues… the usual – and doctors are unable to help, her father contacts a priest who believes that she is possessed. With the father out of work for over a year and the family in need of some quick money, he reluctantly allows his daughter’s exorcism to be made into a reality TV show called The Possession. As you’d expect, the exorcism does not exactly go according to plan, and everything spirals out of control until a truly shocking (and I mean shocking) ending forces us to question everything we thought we know about the tale. I read this book 4 years ago, and I’m still talking about it. It’s that colossally good.
Cellphones, child abduction, and mythology
The Disappearance at Devil’s Rock by Paul Tremblay
Following up the immense success he had with A Head Full of Ghosts, Paul Tremblay returned with an equally terrifying tale of (potential?) child abduction. Late one night, Elizabeth discovers that her 13 year old son has vanished without a trace. With the search-and-rescue mission proving rather unfruitful and Josh’s friends not giving them the full truth of what happened that night – the group were supposed to be hanging out at a local landmark called Devil’s Rock – things start to go… wild. Elizabeth sees a ghostly apparition hanging out in the corner of her bedroom, torn up pages from Josh’s journal (that portray a child who is obsessed with folklore and the phantasmagoric) are scattered across the house, and residents start complaining about a shadowy figure peering in their windows at night. All I’m going to say is this: have fun sleeping after this one. Fun fact: there’s a deeply disturbing drawing on one page that still gives me nightmares.
A little girl, mysterious strangers, and the end of the world
Shifting gears once again, Paul Tremblay decided to follow-up his child abduction tale with a topic that’s a bit larger in scope – namely, the freakin’ apocalypse! One day, Wen – who is on vacation at an isolated cabin with her dads – is playing outside when she’s approached by a massive man named Leonard. After playing with her for a little while, Wen hears footsteps approaching and Leonard says “None of what’s going to happen is your fault,” at which point three more strangers show up to the property. Justifiably terrified, Wen runs to warn her parents of the strangers’ presence. As she’s running away, though, Leonard calls after her and says, “Your dads won’t want to let us in, Wen. But they have to. We need your help to save the world.” That’s literally only the first, like, 20 pages. I genuinely can’t go into too much more detail without giving away the shocking ending, but I will say this: you will want everyone you know to read the book just so that you can talk things through with that. It’s that good.
A mixed bag of everything
If there is one genre where the short story is still alive and well, it’s horror. In fact, some of the best works of horror fiction – Stephen King’s Night Shift and Joe Hill‘s Strange Weather, for instance – have been short story collections. Well, I’m calling it: we can now include Paul Tremblay‘s latest book, Growing Things, amongst those books. In this collection, Paul Tremblay tackles a little bit of everything – revenge, monsters, climate change, mass hysteria, murderers, the world of publishing – and exposes the dark humanity of the horror genre. There are a few standout stories. In “The Teacher,” a high-school class is shown – frame-by-frame – a staggeringly dark video that haunts them throughout the year. In “Notes for ‘The Barn In the Wild’,” my personal favourite, a successful journalist sets out deep into the woods to find out what happened to a young man who disappeared a while earlier. And in “Something About Birds”… I honestly don’t even know what to say about this story besides you have to read it to believe it. Bonus: There’s even a choose-your-own-adventure type story right in the middle! I can go on and on about this collection, but I don’t want to give it all away. Just do yourself a favour and read it. Preferably during the day. In a crowded place. With the lights on.
Whether you’re looking for an injection of life into the horror genre, you’re wanting to bring Halloween around a little earlier than normal, or you’re simply in the mood for a thrilling, suspenseful book, look no further than Paul Tremblay‘s collection of truly shocking tales. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
What’s the scariest book you’ve ever read, Savvy Readers? And who’s your favourite horror author? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter @SavvyReader!
Follow me on Twitter @JesseDorey15