The Cabin at the End of the World has a fantastic premise at its core, and if this story had been a novella or a 90-minute movie, I likely would have enjoyed it a whole lot more. Instead, Tremblay stuffs and stretches a simple yet awesome idea into a full-length novel that's both padded and repetitive to a frustrating degree.
Without spoiling things, The Cabin at the End of the World is a home invasion novel with apocalyptic overtones. Andrew and Eric, and their adopted Chinese daughter, Wen, are trapped inside their cabin, surrounded by four individuals who may or may not be totally insane.
To kick things off, we're first introduced to Wen in a much too long opening chapter that sees her collecting grasshoppers before meeting the strange and large Leonard, the leader of the group of intruders. The second chapter involves a very protracted round of "Let us in" "No, we won't let you in!" round-robin between the intruders and Andrew and Eric. You discover pretty quickly that Tremblay only has a couple ideas with which to prop up The Cabin at the End of the World, and a whole lot of pages are spent with repetitive dialogue as the characters go back and forth, and back and forth, and back and forth some more, arguing the same freaking points over and over and over and over and over in laborious fashion. These back and forths exhausting - not for the characters, oh no, not at all, but for the readers. These characters spend nearly three hundred pages arguing endlessly around a "You must do this!" "No, we will never do that!" premise. It's fucking tiring. That it's further padded with excruciating details about every freaking bit of furniture and blanket in the house helps not a whit.
Thankfully, these pointless circular exchanges are punctuated with some truly well drawn moments of violence and sequences of events that call into question the nature of this book's scenario as a whole. Unfortunately, Tremblay refuses to take a stand in regards to how much of his scenario is legitimate versus some of these characters simply being bugfuck crazy. You never know if the demands being placed upon Andrew and Eric have any sort of real meaning or not, and Tremblay argues both sides effectively but ultimately waffles on the credibility of the premise in order to be uber mysterioso. He wants his story to be both incredible and incredulous simultaneously, refusing to pick a side. Ultimately, this book comes off more like a Choose Your Own Adventure as told by a high school debate club, albeit one armed with some wicked home-made weaponry.
In terms of home invasion horrors, The Cabin at the End of the World has an excellent killer premise. In terms of execution, home invasion horror has been done far better in books like Jack Ketchum's Off Season and Brett McBean's The Invasion. Or you could just save a few days entirely, read something else, and pop in a Blu-ray copy of The Strangers.
[Note: I received an advance copy of this title from the publisher, William Morrow, via Edelweiss.]
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