It was completely unintentional that I read two books in a row featuring gay couples—I just randomly picked the shortest books off the massive pile I still need to read to shrink it a bit faster. But this happy accident makes the perfect double feature blog.
THE CABIN AT THE END OF THE WORLD by Paul Tremblay
Because there was so much hype about this book, as well as praise because it focuses on gay characters, my hubba hubba got it for me for Christmas.
What I didn’t expect was for this to feel like a rather generic home invasion film in book form. No monsters, aliens, or crazy backwoods cannibals near this cabin, simply a weird cult of people convinced that a gay couple and their daughter are the key to stopping the end of the world.
The book starts right in with the crazy crew showing up at the cabin and trying to gently explain the situation to the couple—which kicks off the home invasion.
The plot felt fairly predictable beyond the gay angle, so this was not a page-turner for me. And perhaps it’s because I spend so much of my time immersed in the world of the wacky gay guys in my own horror series, but the two guys here feel very flat to me, with no distinct personalities, despite plenty of flashback scenes in place in an attempt to further develop their characters. I know they are in a dire situation so it’s hard to paint a more complex emotional side of either of them, but that perhaps would be reason enough to present them before the home invaders show up. I just never quite felt their devotion to each other or their daughter.
And the driving force pushing the story forward—is there really an apocalypse? Are these just anti-gay religious nuts?—fizzles out then leaves us with an open ending.
Ironically, Stephen King has a quote on The Cabin At The End of the World book jacket:
“A tremendous book—thought-provoking and terrifying, with tension that winds up like a chain.”
Despite his glowing approval, I found this one couldn’t compete with his own short book centering around a gay couple.
ELEVATION by Stephen King
It has been decades since I’ve been drawn into page-turning territory by a Stephen King book, but this novella had me at the first chapter thanks to it being small (in height and width!), only 146 pages, and presenting a premise that is sort of Thinner with lesbians.
However, this isn’t so much a horror story as an episode of Amazing Stories. It’s King at his best, for it is just as much about interpersonal relationships in a small town as it is about a man who is mysteriously registering as losing loads of weight on the scale despite still remaining visually overweight.
It’s the story about the biggest loser’s new lesbian neighbors being ostracized by townsfolk that made me want this one to be longer than it is. Him being one of few who sees and feels the injustice they’re experiencing and the stubborn streak that keeps the lesbians from appreciating it are the stuff of classic King.
Yet, while King does a great job of giving various perspectives on both progressive and regressive people, in the end the plot is tidy and Kumbaya rather than allowing the clashing social and political issues to create the kind of harsh and horrific material we expect from the iconic author. It’s almost like he wanted to be kinder and gentler with the conflict to reshape the conversation on strife that is going on in this country right now.