Disclosure: I bought this book of my own accord. The following review may contain affiliate links.
Title: Survivor Song
Author: Paul Tremblay
Release Date: July 7, 2020
Genres: Horror, apocalyptic
Star Rating: 5/5
Natalie, thirty-eight weeks pregnant, waits for her husband in her dark home. The news reports say that grocery lines are hours long, and light may draw attention of infected people and animals. She tries not to think about how she’ll give birth safely, especially when her mind is constantly occupied with immediate dangers. But she’s forced to ask the impossible of her physician best friend, Ramola, and herself when she can no longer stay safe at home.
I’ve enjoyed everything that I’ve read from Paul Tremblay, but until Survivor Song, none of them hit me as hard emotionally as A Head Full of Ghosts. Natalie and Ramola are some of the most well-written female characters that I’ve come across in a horror novel, and the depth of their friendship is beautifully illustrated. The love they have for each other comes across in their dialogue and overt actions, but each woman refuses to voice her own pain and fear out of worry for the other. Watching their friendship continue to survive incredible hardship is just as enthralling as the collapse of society around them.
There’s been much said about the timeliness of this book’s release during a pandemic, and it is truly Orwellian in prescience. The catastrophic failure of large and powerful institutions causes the best and worst aspects of humanity to come out in the supporting characters. The inability to know who to trust tests the connection between Ramola and Natalie, and keepts the tension high even during the novel's few quiet moments. Multiple events from the real world, including distasteful jokes about the the state of the world, insane conspiracy theories, and heinous acts done to prevent further outbreak, were present in the novel and feel real.
One of the most common complaints about Tremblay’s work is his fondness for ambiguous endings. Survivor Song is an exception, and its conclusion fits thematically and feels believable and emotionally satisfying. Even readers who dislike the earlier works of Tremblay should give this one a chance. In addition to improving upon his character writing and pacing, his lyrical, yet frank depiction of the resiliency and generosity possible in humanity is hard to find elsewhere, especially in horror. For readers new to the genre or his work, this should appeal to anyone who likes female-centered horror, apocalyptic novels that don’t resort to cliches, or character-driven narratives.
Content warnings: childbirth, gore, xenophobia, animal death/injury.
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