Review: “Growing Things and Other Stories,” Paul Tremblay

Pros: Wonderful collection of stories!
Cons:
Rating: 5 out of 5

Paul Tremblay presents us with a collection of short horror stories called Growing Things and Other Stories. I should note that there’s some mention of animal harm in a couple of the stories.

The title story, Growing Things, is an apocalyptic story in which two girls wait for their father to come home from a supply run as plants take over the world. His stories are rarely just one thing, however, and there are other things going on in that family. Where We All Will Be has people flocking to the ocean like moths to a flame–except for Zane, who isn’t feeling the mysterious pull at all. He goes, however, in an attempt to stay with his father and find his mother. It’s Against the Law to Feed the Ducks is an apocalyptic from the point of view of a young child. Swim Wants to Know If It’s as Bad as Swim Thinks is another apocalyptic, in which a mother tracks down her daughter (whom she is legally required to stay away from) as giant monsters attack the world. Once again we find that Tremblay’s tales tend to work on multiple levels, as this woman has some… issues.

[O]h shit, I wasn’t me again, and the me who wasn’t me did something, something wrong, but I don’t know what.

Something About Birds is utterly surreal and bizarre; not really my kind of story, but it was still oddly fascinating. The Teacher is also rather surreal–eight kids are put into a special class, and it seems to send them all ’round the twist as they’re made to watch some rather disturbing films. Notes for “The Barn in the Wild” is an interesting little found-journal story. A Haunted House Is a Wheel upon Which Some Are Broken is a choose-your-own-adventure story–this works great in ebook format, where you can just click on the links. I didn’t really grok The Thirteenth Temple, but I gather it refers back to one of Tremblay’s other books, so perhaps it would make more sense if I had read that first.

The Getaway is about four men fleeing a robbery-gone-wrong. Only, it seems to have gone more wrong than they think. The ending in particular really gripped me. Nineteen Snapshots of Dennisport is also another crime/horror story, told as descriptions of nineteen photographs. It’s an interesting conceit, and it really works in this case.

___________ is a very odd story. It starts with a woman approaching a man on a beach and pretending to be his wife, and it just gets stranger from there! Very creepy! Our Town’s Monster is a weird little story about a swamp monster and its relationship with the nearby town. The Society of the Monsterhood is a very bizarre story about four teens and the monster they sort-of befriend. Again, a very odd tale, with an even stranger ending.

It Won’t Go Away is one of a couple of author-main-character stories. It involves a writer who goes to a reading and does something… unexpected. And how that affects other people who were there. Another story with an author as a main character is Notes from the Dog Walkers. It’s hard to imagine telling a story as notes left for a person by their dog walkers, but it works! One of the dog walkers starts getting a little too familiar. They poke around the house a lot more than they should, and start advising the author on their career.

The Ice Tower sees a bunch of ice climbers trying to scale a mysterious ice tower in Antarctica. This is the most Lovecraftian story in here. Her Red Right Hand is a Hellboy story! It’s a bit melancholy and sad, but very interesting. It introduces us to a little girl, Gemma, whose mother recently died and whose father seems to be going off the deep end.

I absolutely loved this collection. While there were some stories that didn’t hit me quite as hard as others, they’re all interesting and fascinating to read.

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