by paul tremblay
“He jokes about this being a different and ridiculous timeline. Because why? Crazy awful stuff happening. Horrific shit has always happened, is always happening, and everywhere. And will happen, it won’t stop. There aren’t any other timelines and this one has always been a horror.”
― Paul Tremblay, Survivor Song
Survivor Song by Paul Tremblay is a whip-cracklingly quick story that immediately pulls you into the nightmare and drowns you in emotions of fear, despair, and a little bit of hope.
Tremblay drops us into Massachusetts amidst an area slowly boiling over with a pandemic-like virus akin to Rabies. The pandemic spreads by saliva, and the inhabitants of that area are getting quite bitey. Paul, the hapless husband, runs out to the grocery store to help his very pregnant wife. This errand would be an everyday type of thing. Not noteworthy in the slightest. Paul, our loving husband, almost makes it but gets taken out brutally. His straightforward errand ended his life.
There is no build-up to brutal moments. They can come from anything. Which I think is one of Tremblay’s talents as a writer. His books tend to be small snippets of moments expanded into stories—a whole book in an hour or an afternoon. Books don’t always have to be giant lengthy tomes to be scary; they can be a small slice of the terrifying moments of someone’s life.
“the final tally of what will be considered the end of the epidemic [but not, to be clear, the end of the virus; it will burrow, digging in like a nasty tick; it will migrate; and it will return all but encouraged and welcomed in a country where science and forethought are allowed to be dirty words, where humanity’s greatest invention—the vaccine—is smeared and vilified by narcissistic, purposeful fools [the most dangerous kind, where fear is harvested for fame, profit, and self-esteem], almost ten thousand people will have died. *”
And while we feel pretty bad for Paul, this story isn’t about him. It is about the other protagonist we meet in the second chapter. Dr. Ramola Sharma. She is a pediatrician who is helping keep her patients calm during all this turmoil. She gets a call from her very pregnant friend Natalie begging for help. Natalie needs to get to the hospital asap so that she can deliver her baby safely. This idea of delivery in the center of an epidemic where everyone is trying to destroy each other is a scary juxtaposition in itself.
This is where the real meat of the Survivor Song happens: the struggle of these two women battling and struggling to get to the hospital to help Natalie. It is a fascinating story that leaves you breathless because it is not more profound than that. You root for these two women because they are trying so hard to survive, and we, as the readers, have connected with them a bit. Even if it is just superficially, you want these two ladies to live.
“Humanity’s greatest invention—the vaccine—is smeared and vilified by narcissistic, purposeful fools [the most dangerous kind, where fear is harvested for fame, profit, and self-esteem],”
Survivor Song is a well-done story by a master horror writer. There is some character development, but honestly, the speed at which events take place does not lend characters time to eternalize events that are happening to them. And grow from them as characters. It is kill or run. Do not get bit. Breathe. Do it again. The pacing is frenetic; the words practically vibrate off of the page.
If you are a fan of Tremblay, you will enjoy this book. I’d read this story for the pacing alone. Tremblay made me feel like I was running through the woods with branches whipping me in the face. Also, not surprising that it is a quick read as well. Even at 320 pages, it goes by fast. So come check out the struggle of these two ladies as they try to outrun a pandemic and try to save the life of an unborn child. You won’t be let down by it.
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