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The hype surrounding Paul Tremblay is one that I have wanted to check out for years. Tremblay is a horror author widely noted as one of the greats of this day and age. I was sadly, sorely disappointed.

The Plot

Survivor Song follows Dr. Ramola Sherman and her friend Natalie, eight months pregnant, as they navigate the landscape of a pandemic. In under a month, a mutated rabies virus spread by saliva, aka being bitten by a ravenous infected person or animal, has ravaged the Northeast.

The rabies virus is like no one has seen before. Within an hour, the infected becomes delirious and begins attacking victims at a super-human pace. The virus is easily spread, and quickly. To limit the spread of the virus, quarantining and curfew rules are in place. Society begins to break down into a post-apocalyptic state in this novel as preparations and attempts to stop the virus fail.

Natalie becomes infected when a ravenous neighbor attacks her and her husband, killing him. Ramola races to get Natalie a vaccine within an hour and prays that it will work. As Ramola and Natalie navigate the world in a rabies infested pandemic, they come across characters and situations that are morally corrupt and hard to traverse. Survivor Song preys on the horror tradition most notably seen in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, where a pair attempts to find meaning and hope in a sickness infested wasteland.

The Elephant in the Room

Reading this novel in the midst of an actual global pandemic was quite the experience. This novel was published in early 2020, way before Tremblay and his development of the novel could have known this would happen to our modern-day world. It is eerie that details in his novel echo what we are going through during this last year: quarantines and curfews, a race for a vaccine, increasing numbers of deaths each day.

“I’m going to stop now, I think. We’ll talk again later. I promise. If I break the promise, please know I didn’t mean to. It sucks, but promises get broken all the time. Promises are like wishes. Yeah. They’re great as long as you know they won’t always help and won’t always come true.”

– Natalie, as she records a message for her unborn child

The Verdict

The concept for the novel was a familiar one and had the potential to really unease and alarm the reader. However, the execution fell flat for me. With a 3.66 rating on Goodreads, it looks like most other readers felt the same way. Firstly, the novel could have been edited down to half its size. The novel follows Ramola and Natalie’s race for help – that is all.

There were many places where a useless conversation took up pages or the sentence level writing was easily skimmed or skippable. Every word should be important in horror to create a vibe that readers are left with, hanging onto every word. I should not want to skip sections in a novel like this. The stakes should feel high, and they did not except for the last fifty pages or so. This is where the best writing was.

I wanted more from Tremblay and his reputation, and I can really only say it was mediocre.

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Sarah Moon is a stone-cold sorceress from Tennessee whose interests include serial killers, horror fiction, and the newest dystopian blockbuster. Sarah holds an M.A. in English Literature and an M.F.A. in Fiction Writing. She works as an English professor as well as a cemeterian. Sarah is most likely to cover horror in print including prose, poetry, and graphic forms. You can find her on Instagram @wellreadredhead18.

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Book Reviews

What Have We Done: Alex Finlay Produces Another Hit

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  • Jenna: A stay at home mom with a secret assassin past
  • Donnie: An alcoholic rock star
  • Nico: An executive producer of a reality television show

They all have a past, but who is out to get them?

The Plot

Jenna, Donnie, and Nico share a troubled past. They were all orphans who lived at Savior House — which is much less savior, much more terror. When their friend Benny, a famous judge, is murdered and the FBI comes looking, Jenna, Donnie, and Nico must race against the clock to figure out who is targeting them.

The Verdict

From the author of The Night Shift, which I reviewed here, I would expect nothing less than what Finlay has delivered. Finlay notoriously creates stories with palpable thrill and spine-tingling revelations.

I particularly enjoyed the character of Jenna. She is a reformed assassin living a normal life as a new stepmom. When she is called in to make a hit and her family is threatened, she goes badass mom on ’em. While I still thought Donnie and Nico as characters were engaging, it was nothing for what I felt for Jenna.

Also, major props to Finlay for creating a character that kills with a very unique weapon. Read it to find out more!

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

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Book Reviews

“The Writing Retreat” Gone Bad: Julia Bartz’s Debut

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Keeping it all in the family, Julia Bartz’s The Writing Retreat is the debut novel of the sister of Andrea Bartz, author of We Were Never Here, which I reviewed here.

I was much more impressed with The Writing Retreat than I was We Were Never Here.

The Plot

Five up and coming female writers under 30 are invited to a writing retreat hosted by the reclusive and acclaimed horror writer Rosa Vallo. Rosa reveals the details of the retreat: each writer must complete a full length novel from scratch over the next month. The best novel wins a multi-million dollar publishing deal with Rosa.

Suddenly, the retreat turns into a nightmare when one writer goes missing in the snowy terrain outside.

The novel hinges on friendships in turmoil and has a focus on LGBT+ representation as well as interpersonal female relationships. The novel explores the dark publishing world and the search for fame and the Great American Novel.

The Verdict

This novel is atmospheric and intellectual, page turning, and the English major’s required reading. I absorbed this novel and found Julia Bartz’s writing and conceptual chops to be leagues above her sister’s.

Ths novel releases on February 21, 2023 and it should be in your cart right now.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Buy it here!

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Book Reviews

A Murder in Reverse: “Wrong Place Wrong Time”

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The Plot

“A brilliantly genre-bending, mind-twisting answer to the question How far would you go to save your child?”  — Ruth Ware, #1 New York Times bestselling author

Jen watches her son murder a stranger. Stab him to death. She and her husband, Kelly, watch as their son Todd is taken into custody.

The next morning, Jen wakes up and it’s yesterday. Jen knows that at the end of the night, her son kills someone. She is determined to stop it.

Jen goes further and further back in time trying to discover why Todd murdered a stranger and how to stop it.

The Verdict

This book is twisty. Right when you think you know the ending, something else is there to prove that the story is more multifaceted than that. While the premise of the novel is simple, Gillian McAllister elevates a simple concept with deep, dark twists.

It is best that you don’t know too much going into this one. For fans of Blake Crouch, this is such a good thriller with time travelling vibes.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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