“This is not a fairy tale. Certainly, it is not one that has been sanitized, homogenized, or Disneyfied, bloodless in every possible sense of the word, beasts and human monsters defanged and claws clipped, the children safe and the children saved, the hard truths harvested from hard lives if not lost then obscured, and purposefully so.”
– Paul Tremblay, Survivor Song
So begins Paul Tremblay’s latest entry into horror fiction, SURVIVOR SONG. If you’re like me, you might go into this book thinking it’s another zombie story and if you’re like me, zombies are your favorite and you don’t mind one bit. But, dear horror friend, prepare to have your mind blown. SURVIVOR SONG is not your run-of-the-mill zombie read and as we are forwarned in the very first paragraph of the book, it is not a modern fairy tale, but rather one of the Grimm sort. SURVIVOR SONG is a terrifying and beautiful story about the love between friends and the connection between a soon to be mother and her unborn child.
This tale begins in a modern-day Massachusetts, that is under quarantine because of a new strain of a rabies-like virus that is spread through saliva. Like rabies, it causes aggressiveness, agitation, confusion, hallucinations, muscle spasms and unusual postures and movements, hydrophobia or fear of water and the incessant need to attack and namely bite as many people as one can before completely shutting down and dying. Unlike traditional rabies which could take a month to a full year before reaching the brain, which is the point of no return, this new virus is likely to reach the brain within an hour or less after exposure. Natalie is about 8 months pregnant when she and her husband are attacked by an infected neighbor. In Natalie’s struggle to save her husband, she is bitten. In her grief at the sudden loss of her husband and agonizing pain at the site of the bite, she frantically calls Dr. Ramola Sherman, her best friend from college, to elicit help. Together Nats and Rams race against the clock through the streets of Massachusetts overrun with infected humans and animals, the hysterical, and far leaning conspiracy theorists, to try to get Nats the help she needs to save her and her unborn child.
Firstly, the timing of this story could not have been better due to the current COVID-19 pandemic and political climate. The utter chaos caused by the virus in this story certainly mirrors the chaos we are currently living through, though our reality is on a slighter level. SURVIVOR SONG could be a look into a future that might very well be if the virus we are dealing with were to evolve into anything resembling the one written about in Tremblay’s book. The virus itself is a horror, but human nature is where the true horror lies; the things we do to survive, the actions we take out of fear and those we risk to protect the ones we love. Paul Tremblay hits all the marks in this story. I felt completely uneasy throughout and I believe that was his intent. Even when I knew that the decisions being made by Rams and Nats were wrong, I rooted for them and cried with them. Even the side characters were multi-faceted and extremely well written. Josh and Luis’ story touched me just as much as Nats and Rams’.
SURVIVOR SONG is everything you could want in a horror novel. The characters are beautifully written and very real, the pace is flawless and the terror is enough to keep you in bed having to pee and too afraid to get up and do so. This is the perfect book to read right now. Put it on hold at the library (because I’m sure there’s a crazy waitlist right now) or go order your copy as soon as humanly possible. Let me know below in the comments if you’d be interested in a spoiler-heavy review.
SURVIVOR SONG is now available. For more information on the book or to purchase a copy, click here.