Paul Tremblay continues his unbroken string of fascinating horror novels. He is adept at breathing new life into ancient horror tropes, as he did with demonic possession in A Head Full of Ghosts. In the nightmarish The Cabin at the End of the World, Tremblay has fashioned an unholy marriage between the home invasion genre and apocalyptic thrillers.
The novel opens with Wen, a seven-year-old girl, on a vacation with her two adoptive fathers at a remote cabin. She is interrupted while collecting grasshoppers by a man who tells her, "None of what's going to happen is your fault. You haven't done anything wrong, but the three of you will have to make some tough decisions." That turns out to be a dramatic understatement: soon there's a violent siege of the cabin, and Wen and her fathers, Eric and Andrew, struggle desperately to keep their family safe.
What at first seems like an unusual riff on the home invasion thriller evolves into a story that can't easily be pigeonholed. Without ruining any of Tremblay's nasty surprises, it is safe to say that the four strangers turn out to have very earnest motivations that they believe to involve the fate of the human race.
The novel unfolds cinematically, taking place over hours rather than weeks. As harrowing as it may be, however, there is a lot of warmth in its depiction of Eric, Andrew and Wen's small family. There is also a surprising amount of dark humor. The Cabin at the End of the World deftly moves between private insecurities and existential terror, poking holes in the flimsy sense of security families rely upon. --Hank Stephenson, bookseller, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, N.C.