The Cabin at the End of the World -The Asian Age

Liam Leonard

Thirty pages into The Cabin at the End of the World-right before the book turns the wheel directly toward its promised apocalypse and stomps on the gas-one character remarks to another on the absurdity of the "typical thriller" he's reading.

He doesn't say which one, but you can picture the kind-displayed proudly on the new release stand of a bookstore-near-you; it's sporting a vaguely descriptive noun-based title that promises a central mystery to keep you reading in a slapdash effort to keep you from thinking.

Released through William Morrow this year-buy it on the new release stand of a bookstore-near-you!-The Cabin at the End of the World is strong enough that author Paul Tremblay doesn't end up with eggs smashed on his face, but it isn't different enough to transcend the conventions of the thriller genre it belongs to.

Tremblay has been in the kitchen before, though. His last two outings were horror novels (A Head Full of Ghosts, Disappearance at Devil's Rock), and he seems to know that, in a genre as marketable as it is crowded, it's essential to have a plot that gets even the most jaded genre fan curious.

The Cabin at the End of the World's dust jacket description does a killer job of selling itself. Who are the four people who have broken into this family's cabin? Why are they all are dressed the same? Will this family choose to sacrifice one of their own in order to stop what is maybe the end of the literal world?

The premise is great, but the trouble is the novel doesn't seem concerned with answering the questions it poses-though it asks them with great craft.

By the end of the book, the content that propelled the plot forward is retroactively weakened because it doesn't seem to mean as much as initially suggested.

It's confusing for the book to amount to so little, as it blasts out of the gate with incredibly promising prose and ideas. Tremblay flutters expertly from one character perspective to another, remaining omniscient but involved, showing he is an author who truly cares about the manner in which information is conveyed to the audience.

Not unlike Emma Donoghue's beautifully confident novel Room, he gets inside the head of his story's young observer and blends the audience's need for facts with the necessity of feeling; he captures dialogue that is plodding in the way everyday words often are, action that is affecting in the way real life often threatens to be.

Tremblay is a sharp writer who understands people, but when he really has the opportunity to set the book apart from others in the genre, he doesn't try to lift the weighty ideas that the story seemed to promise-and that's a shame, because I think he's strong enough to do it.

By the time its maybe-apocalypse occurs (no spoilers here), it's clear that The Cabin at the End of the World's greatest enemy isn't other books in the thriller genre, but the frustrating strength of its first impression.

The writer is a freelancer