The Beast You Are by Paul Tremblay
Thank you to NetGalley and William Morrow for sending this book for review consideration. All opinions are my own.
The Beast You Are is a literary horror collection from the author of A Head Full of Ghosts and The Cabin at the End of the World, which was recently adapted into the movie Knock at the Cabin. His work has won the Bram Stoker, British Fantasy, and Massachusetts Book awards, and he has been published in the Los Angeles Times and New York Times. The bulk of his new collection is filled with the titular story, while the rest is filled with 14 much shorter pieces.
Tremblay’s collection exists at a baffling crossroads between genres and forms, making it both accessible to all types of fiction readers but not targeted to any single group in particular. One of the standout stories, “I Know You’re There,” may be the most restrained piece of genre fiction I’ve ever read. The story articulates the horror of death through sadness, confusion, and the imagination of the main character. This piece, like much of the collection, implements the speculative elements with a certain suspicion and uncertainty, as if it’s up to the reader to decide if the supernatural elements of the story are real.
“Haunted House Tour” is an excellent slow-burn piece, and “Red Eyes” shines for its immediately bizarre and very short story of monsters and mayhem. The Beast You Are is the most unusual piece in the collection, opting for a free verse structure like an ancient epic. Tremblay’s strange does work and create a sort of monstrous addition to a monstrous story, but it does inevitably become distracting as the line breaks often broke the flow of the story for me.
At its best, Tremblay’s book is a razor sharp collection of literary horror written with startling lucidity. The clarity and precision of the story is reminiscent of Ishiguro’s Nocturnes with the inventiveness of Salinger’s Nine Stories. The stories slowly catch fire and build into impressive, cinematic sequences. At times, Tremblay pulled me out of the story with strange story formats and intrusive lines like “I pass through the lower level of the house as quietly as I can, like an omniscient, emotionally distant narrator, which I am not.” But for the vast majority of the collection, Tremblay’s prose shines and tells the stories clearly and vividly, making for an impressive and unique collection worth reading.