I came across Paul Tremblay’s The Cabin at the End of the World during a recent search for Lovecraftian horror that introduced me to The Fisherman from John Langan (which I loved). And while I would not personally categorize The Cabin at the End of the World as overly Lovecraftian, it definitely is an apocalyptic tale that provides constant tension punctuated by some truly horrific moments.
The Cabin at the End of the World starts out innocently enough, with a family vacation. A young girl named Wen and her fathers are enjoying a peaceful, lakeside cabin stay in New Hampshire. Until a stranger shows up. And then three more strangers follow.
I want to stay as spoiler-free as possible, and it’s hard to talk about this story without spoiling it. So I’ll draw on some movie references as I go. I just mentioned strangers, and at first, the story seems to be headed in the direction of The Strangers, or Funny Games. But the way Tremblay takes the horror fan’s expectations or assumptions and shatters them is really great. And what follows is one of the most claustrophobic stories about the apocalypse that I’ve ever read.
Tremblay gets into the heads of each character in the story, giving them all a depth that makes you wonder who you should be rooting for. And the impossible choice that the main characters are faced with reminded me of the opening scene of 1983’s War Games. Human emotion, human connection and how they affect logic and reason are really explored deeply. As for the Lovecraftian element of the book, it’s perhaps best captured by a passage from Lovecraft’s Call of Cthulhu:
“…some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.”
The Cabin at the End of the World is one of those “read in one sitting” kind of stories. It’s well worth your time, and it will leave you pondering its central question for quite a while.
You can get The Cabin at the End of the World on Amazon here.