Now, I have read and enjoyed many books by Paul Tremblay including The Pallbearer's Club, The Cabin at the End of the World, Disappearance at Devil's Rock, Survivor's Song and even A Head Full of Ghosts. Over the course of the last few years, Paul Tremblay has proven himself to be one of the great new voices of horror and thriller novels, creating some really memorable characters and intense atmospheres. I have read his short story anthology Growing Things and Other Stories and though I do like his short stories, I have to say that the former anthology was a little bit better than this one in terms of writing style. Here we have experimentation that I respect, but does not always work with the desired effect. Standing with respect for his small and experimental changes to his writing, I see why people would enjoy it - but in comparison to his other works it does not hold up as being all that understandable - often leaving the reader with mixed emotions on the stories within.
Paul Tremblay opens his anthology with a short story called Haunted House Tour: One Per Person. This story is about a man who relives his teen years to the reader by recounting a crush he had on a girl. I mean, the premise was a bit 'as the reader, why do I care?' but after a while, there were just too many add-on details that were not woven into the story for me to care about the drawing of a nightmare. Yes, you read that correctly and no, there's no context. The drawing itself was far less frightening than those in the novel Hidden Pictures and those ones were drawn by a child.
I liked the story Mean Time because I felt like it was a good bridge between stories. It had a strange uneasy feeling to it because it was so short and yet, it shows you something about humanity in that length. It's about a child who does something horrible to an old man who uses chalk sticks to get home at the end of the day - using them to navigate his journey. It might be only a page or so long, but it packs a punch better than other stories in the anthology. I thought it was very clever.
I have mixed feelings about the story Red Eyes mainly because it did not seem in any way surprising or tense. It was very clear from the outset what was going on and the differentiation of good and bad was not even a challenge to think about. I felt like the aspect of the 'scary story' being told to the narrator was a good idea but the story itself was a little hollow - it felt like it was too easy in comparison to say, the short novella in the anthology.
With other stories like House of Windows which is clearly a nod to House of Leaves, The Last Conversation, The Blog at the End of the World and more, I think that a lot of this anthology leaves the reader wanting more of the better stuff because it is a little scarce. I think that the main pitfall of this anthology was that it was trying to be too many things to too many people. At one point it's horror and at another point it's Sci-Fi. At one point we have a very realistic story and at another point we have something that is so ridiculously out-there, it could not happen at all. It was put together in a messy way and I would have appreciated a more streamlined anthology that reflected maybe one or two varitions on a genre rather than an amalgamation of everything within it.
All in all, there were definitely some strong stories in this anthology and it is clear that Paul Tremblay has some real writing talent. However, I think that the downfall of this anthology lies not really much with its stories but the idea of tha anthology having such wildly different stories in there which the reader does not have time to get used to before they are already over. It was good, but does not hit the same level as his other works.