Postcards From a Dying World
News, views, book reviews and commentary from the Science Fiction and Horror fiction underground. Home of the Wonderland award nominated author of Vegan Revolution...With Zombies and Boot Boys of the Wolf Reich.
Saturday, October 10, 2015
Book Review: A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published June 2nd 2015 by William Morrow
I was interested in this book from the first time I saw it sitting on the shelf at Mysterious Galaxies. I picked it up, read the dust jacket and made a note to read it at some point. Then I heard Brian Keene say it was one of his favorites of the year, and Listened to a great interview he did with Tremblay on his podcast. I heard several others say it was on their best of the year list. This is a great problem for an author to have but suddenly the hype machine was spitting out praise to a crazy level.
At this point anything less than mind blowing was going to feel like a let down. So my initial rating on good Reads was 3 stars. I felt like the hype was a bit over the top. The book didn't grab me right away and without the hype I may not have kept reading but I did. I am glad I did because not only did I enjoy it but a curious thing happened. The longer I thought about the book the more I enjoyed it.
Long after I closed the book, I was still thinking about it,and my opinion changed. It was better than I first thought. For reasons that are a total spoiler. Normally I don't do spoilers in a review so after a good amount of non-spoiler You'll get a warning. Then it's on.
A Head Full of Ghosts is a very interesting horror novel, that is meta-horror at times. It is the story of Merry whose family is in crisis. Her older sister Majorie is having problems. Her father who recently found god believes she is possessed. Why not? Majorie is not denying in fact she is playing along or is she? Things get really intense when her exorcism becomes the subject of a reality TV show.
Told through first person accounts, blog entires and various other tricks. Those things were my least favorite part of the story. I know that is a personal thing but the shifting narrative takes me out of story often. Tremblay however is very talented story teller and it is no doubt he found a neat way to attack a tired subject in the genre. He pulls it all off. The hype may become a problem for this novel but it delivers over all. This books works on levels of subtext I can get along with. It is likely that you may miss some of it. See it through, because in the end it is a nearly perfect masterpiece. I am going to raise my rating to 4 stars.
OK, OK. This book is that good. Tremblay blew fresh air into a tired trope of the genre. I can't tell you why that is the hard part.
WARNED. OK A Head Full of Ghosts is a great horror novel that I think will be open for interruption. How you judge this story will depend greatly on how close you read it. Honestly I put the book down and it wasn't till hours after I finished it that I didn't consider it. My first thought was that Majorie was not possessed at all. I still don't think that she ever was possessed. She had issues for sure, she could have been "possessed" by the idea of it. The media influencing her seems more likely. She at a young age knows everything about exorcism movies. When I closed the book the first time, that was my assumption.
Upon thinking about the book I started remembering details about the younger sister Merry and my thoughts changed. It seems that Tremblay was subtlety pointing out that it was Merry all along that was possessed. That she manipulated her sister, to taking the all the blame for the poisoning of their parents. The cold in the room, the fact that everything happened when she was in the room. to me that is what happened. A fantastic ending that is open to debate and I assume everyone reads this will debate the ending. That alone makes it a great novel.