Of the recent horror writers to have made their mark, Paul Tremblay belongs the most to a tradition of psychological terror. Stories in Growing Things such as "Something About Birds" and "Notes from 'The Barn in the Wild' " have themes of cosmic horror, but his best work derives its power from the ordinary and domestic gone mysteriously wrong. Two other stories connect directly to Tremblay's earlier novel A Head Full of Ghosts, a wrenching tragedy that left what happened to the central character ambiguous. Throughout this collection, the reader is forced to make their own shuddering conclusions as to why, for instance, in "-------," a family man meets a woman acting as if she's his longtime wife and his children seem to agree.
Like fellow New England writer Shirley Jackson, Tremblay is a master of delving so deep into a psyche that a reader longs to come up for air. Yet he's also surprisingly playful about his own reputation and the milieu of horror fiction (as in the blackly funny "Notes from the Dog Walkers"), and restless in his experimentation with form. Growing Things is not Tremblay's magnum opus but a stepping stone to one. Here are 19 stories without boundaries, elegantly crafted and written to speak to the deepest fears and strangest obsessions. And all they ask in return is to enter the reader's dreams, to be thought of with a twinge of anxiety. The only warning one can give is: buyer beware. --C.M. Crockford, freelance reviewer