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Book Review

Book Cover

Growing Things and Other Stories


Author: Paul Tremblay
Publisher: Titan Books
472 pages
RRP: £8.99
ISBN: 978 1 78565 784 9
Publication Date: 02 July 2019

Horror was always a strange genre for me, whether it was in film or in print. The last thing which actually scared me was watching Alien (1979). The idea of the xenomorph, which you cannot kill, cannot reason with and which will not stop until it killed you stayed with me for months. I suppose it’s an age thing and overexposure to horror which eventually robs the genre of its potency. So, you can imagine the surprise of reading a collection of short stories, which are genuinely disturbing.

Growing Things and Other Stories (2019. 472 pages) is a collection of nineteen stories from the twisted mind of American author, Paul Tremblay. Tremblay has won the Bram Stoker and British Fantasy awards. The majority of the stories have been printed previously in magazines, while there are a couple which are new.

Tremblay is an author who is not interested in shocking you with gore and in many of the stories there isn’t even a monster to contend with. Tremblay relies on strange events and even the depths to which humans can sink to unnerve the reader. Although the book is touted as horror, it would be more accurate to say that Tremblay is a master of creating fearful situations which induce discomfort in the reader in any genre.

The stories range across many subgenres. For instance the title story involves two young girls, trapped in a cabin after their father has gone to look for food. There is danger outside as nature has turned against humanity and to leave the cabin means certain death. As the children grow weaker there is a knock at the door. Is it the father? Is it something else? Tremblay doesn’t tell you because the exercise is to bring you to a level of fear that no matter what lays outside you will be too scared to open the door.

Now, this could be seen as science fiction or just plain horror, but like most of the stories here they often defy classification.

The other thing that Tremblay does is play with form. Not all of the stories are presented as a straight forward narrative. 'Nineteen Snapshots of Dennisport' structures a story of abuse and revenge around the narrator going through a series of pictures.

'Notes for “The Barn in the Wild”' is presented as a transcribed notebook with the notes in the margins added in a footnotes. There is also a make yourself a horror story in 'A Haunted House is a Wheel Upon which some are Broken', the sort of thing where depending on your choice you're asked to turn to a particular page.

If there is a single word to describe the collection it would be ‘inventive’. There is great dexterity here with both language, used to invoke a feeling, and form, to entertain the senses. Each story invokes the feeling that I first had watching Alien. Something wicked this way comes and no matter what you do, how clever you are or how rich, death is stalking your path.


Charles Packer

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