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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

What I’m Reading: Cabin At the End of the World and Clickers Forever

I have 5 reviews in May 15, 2018 issue of Booklist but I am breaking them up because 2 are horror and 3 are SF.

Before I get to the reviews of the horror ones today I wanted to share that both of these horror books made me cry, and not out of fear, out of true emotional feelings. That is the sign of an amazing horror book. I am sharing this because you can use that extra info to help booktalk the titles. 

As always, here on the blog, I post the draft reviews [which are longer than the published ones] with extra appeal info, readalikes, and my “three words.” 

 The Cabin at the End of the World.

Tremblay, Paul (author).

June 2018. 288p. Morrow, hardcover, $26.99  (9780062679109); e-book (9780062679123)
First published May 15, 2018 (Booklist).

Tremblay is back with another thought provoking, page turning, horror novel that stabs readers directly in the gut, twists the knife, yet leaves them begging not to be let go. Wen is almost eight years old. She is on vacation, with her Dads, Andrew and Eric, at the end of a dirt road, on a lake in New Hampshire, with no one for miles. While catching grasshoppers on the front lawn, Leonard, a large man in a white button down shirt, approaches Wen, asking her for help to convince her Dads to let him and his friends into their home, for you see, they have come here, to this secluded place, with their menacing and crude weapons, to stop the world from ending, and Wen and her Dads are the key to humanity’s survival. What follows is an extremely intense, anxiety inducing thriller that puts the family in mortal danger while forcing them, and the reader, to tackle a universal dilemma-- how does the sacrifice of one balance against that of 7 billion others? Told from various points of view, including all members of the family, all are unreliable in the sense that each only understands part of the situation, but then again, the reader too is caught up in the emotional struggle not knowing what to believe or who to trust. Is the world really going to end? Does it even matter if you don’t have the ones you love most with you. The inclusion of flashbacks into the lives of Wen, Andrew, and Eric and the family they have built together despite the odds deftly builds their characters and amplifies the dread and terror which permeates every sentence. This is a novel with the heart and tone of The Road by McCarthy, but will also appeal to fans of Ruth Ware, Josh Malerman and Joe Hill.

Further Appeal: First, in case you missed it, this title made the PW Best Book of Summer 2018 list.

Right after I turned in this review, I got to meet Tremblay in person and he told me that this novel is what happened when he challenged himself to write a home invasion story that he would want to read. Well apparently, a lot of other people want to read it too.

Readers here on the blog know I read a lot of dark books, but this one literally kept me up and gave me anxiety nightmares. By the way, for a horror fan, that is a good thing.

Personally, I really enjoyed the flashbacks into Wen, Andy and Erics lives both before they met each other and after. They are the center of this story. And, this is a little mean spirited, but I love that there will be readers who get pissed at Tremblay for holding up Wen and her Dads as being the quintessential family that can save the world. They may not be “normative," but the thing is, they are quintessential. They have so much love and respect for each other. They are not perfect, but it is nice to read about a caring, loving family for a change. However, it is still a horror novel, so you have to be willing to read about a loving family going through intense trauma too.

Which is a good point, I should remind you that this is Horror not a typical suspense story. It is horror both for the speculative elements and because of how the story plays out. Be careful. You will have your heart shattered but, in the process, you be given a lot to think about. This is an original and just outright amazing cautionary tale for our times.

Three Words That Describe This Book: family-centered, thought provoking, menacing

Readalikes: As I say above, The Road is the single book that this is most like. But, I did think of specific titles by the other authors I mentioned in the review as I was reading Cabin at the End of the WorldSpecifically if you could combine, The Woman in Cabin 10, Bird Box and The Fireman into one tight package, that best describes what Tremblay has given us here.

I also think The Changeling by Victor LaValle could work for some. The Changeling is much more fantastical and epic in scope than Cabin at the End of the World but they both have an emotionally driven parent-child story at their center.

Clickers Forever: A Tribute to J. F. Gonzalez.
Keene, Brian (editor).
 Feb. 2018. 440p. Deadite Press, hardcover, $15.95  (9781621052746)
First published May 15, 2018 (Booklist).
In this tribute to Mexican-American trailblazing author Gonzales, who died of cancer in 2014, horror master Keene, used Gonzales’ first novel, the cult-hit, crabs gone wild, Clickers, as a framework, asking his fellow writers to contribute to a collection that would honor the author. The result is a moving, compelling, and just plain fun to read volume which seamlessly melds critical essays on, such as one by Jonathan Maberry on the history of the “munch-out” subgenre, personal recollections by the Gonzales’ closest friends on the author and his work, including more than one piece about his influence as a writer of color, and even a few unpublished works by the subject himself. But those are the book’s exoskeleton, the meat lies in the 20 brand new tales of terror, set in Gonzales’ worlds, spun by those from the current generation of horror, authors like Jonathan Janz, Matt Hayward, Adam Cesare, Amber Fallon, and Stephen Kozeniewski, stories that show admiration, yes, but also showcase these up and comers own talents. Just the authors listed in the table of contents alone will have readers dying to get their claws on this volume, but combined with the recent revival in popularity of pulp horror as chronicled in Grady Hendrix’s Paperbacks From Hell, this a collection that libraries need to shelve. However, the best thing about CLICKERS FOREVER is that not only will readers come away from this collection with a desire to read more by Gonzales [and all the featured authors], but also, they will feel an affection for the man himself, a man whose works they might not have ever read, a man they almost certainly have never met, but a man whose loss they will nonetheless feel because they came into contact with this book.

Further Appeal: First, wowza! That cover. Perfect for displays.

So many authors contributed to this, but despite the fact that there is fiction and nonfiction mixed together, Keene created a unified volume that has an affection for Gonzales uniting the volume. It is a book that entertains, educates, and gives you all the feels along the way.

You want more inclusive titles at your library, right? Gonzales was one of the most influential horror authors of his generation period. But specifically, there are pieces here by authors of color who share what Gonzales as a peer and an influence meant to them.

Pulp horror is also extremely popular right now; the result of a combination of the success of Paperbacks from Hell  and Generation X nostalgia. Clickers Forever fits into this trend perfectly.

Finally, Keene is the executor of Gonzales’ literary estate and all of the proceeds of this book go to the late author's widow and daughter. Keene has also been working to get Gonzales’ backlist titles back in print. Click here to see those. Grab a few for your library’s collection. Your patrons will hank you.

Three Words That Describe This Book: episodic, heart-warming, pulp

Readalikes: Just look at the table of contents or go to the killer animals chapter in Paperbacks from Hell. That will keep you and your patrons busy for a good long while.

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