Horror fans, these two tomes of terror are guaranteed to get under the skin.
In Zoje Stage’s sublimely suspenseful Wonderland, ominous forces are at work in the Adirondack woods. After years of hectic urban life, former ballet dancer Orla and her husband, Shaw, give up their cramped New York City co-op and relocate upstate. With their 9-year-old daughter, Eleanor Queen, and 4-year-old son, Tycho, they move into a spacious old farmhouse set on six acres of wilderness.
From the start, Orla senses that something is off about their new home. Instances of weird, oppressive weather, including a surprise blizzard and strange movements in the trees, keep her on edge. When an invisible presence seems to be reaching out to Eleanor Queen, it becomes clear that the surrounding forest harbors a world of supernatural terror. After a tragic accident occurs, Orla alone must face up to the strange powers she senses all around them.
Stage, whose 2018 debut novel, Baby Teeth, garnered widespread praise, is a literary horror writer on the rise. Her refined prose and knack for emphasizing small but disquieting details make Wonderland a standout summer suspense selection. Reader be warned: The woods will never look the same once you read Stage’s latest.
Paul Tremblay pushes a pandemic plotline to horrifying new heights in Survivor Song. Set in Massachusetts, this spookily prescient thriller features a new strain of rabies that’s infecting the human population. Those who catch the highly contagious disease go mad, attack others and die.
In Boston, pediatrician Ramola Sherman is contacted by her pregnant friend Natalie, whose husband was killed by a virus-infected neighbor. That neighbor also attacked Natalie, and if she doesn’t get a rabies shot soon, she will succumb to the malady. Together, Ramola and Natalie set out in search of help. But hospitals are overrun by infected patients, and curfew measures have been put in place across the state. As the two women press on, they encounter armed mobs and demented victims of the disease.
This propulsive tale of contagion finds Tremblay, bestselling author of The Cabin at the End of the World, in top form. He offers a poignant central character in Natalie, who, as she fights to survive, records voice messages for her unborn child. Survivor Song is a horror narrative of the highest order, and much of it feels eerily real in light of the COVID-19 crisis. “We’ve been quarantined. Nice knowing everybody,” writes a Facebook user in the novel. Can Paul Tremblay predict the future? Let’s hope not.