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  • Writer's pictureMandy McHugh

This Is Not a Fairy Tale: Survivor Song, Paul Tremblay

Paul Tremblay has put out some of my favorite horror titles over the past couple of years. Head Full of Ghosts and Cabin at the End of the World still haunt me on an almost-daily basis, TBH. I couldn't wait to get my hands on Survivor Song, especially after the rave reviews posted in the days leading up to its release.

Reader, it does not disappoint.

Nats is eight and almost-ready-to-burst pregnant when a new strain of rabies virus with an accelerated infection rate plagues the country. On the brink of mass hysteria, she and her husband are attacked, and injured, she's forced to fend for herself, reaching out to her old friend Ramola, a pediatrician, in hopes of getting to a hospital before the baby is born.

Talk about prescient. While it's impossible that Tremblay could've predicted our current situation, his portrayal of an ill-prepared country ravaged by a deadly virus adds to the horror in a way few books I've read have managed to achieve. And in the madness and chaos, we have a woman torn apart by grief, heavily pregnant, with uncertainty and fear looming ahead of her. It's jarring, the vulnerability and exposure. Having given birth to two babies myself, there is always a lingering cringe factor when I read body horror involving pregnant women. It's not like the baby can...stay in there. It has to come out, and having Nats be so close pushed the pace and urgency that hit home on many levels.

In terms of structure, I loved how Nats and Rams' relationship developed. Their history and sisters-by-choice dynamic worked really well here. And while some of the flashbacks are dense--pages of single paragraphs dense--Tremblay's writing style is fast and conversational, so none of it felt overwhelming. Indeed, I devoured this in a single sitting and regret NOTHING.

On a personal note, I appreciated the Easter eggs here; anyone who's read previous Tremblay works is in for a real treat.

Overall, Survivor Song is a beautiful tragedy, exactly what I want from a not-zombie zombie apocalypse reading, and is worth the wait. Add it to your TBR immediately. In the meantime, I'll be over here crossing all my fingers they make this into a movie or series.


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