[Book Review]: SURVIVOR SONG – by Paul Tremblay

Here at Gruesome Magazine, we talk mainly about movies, kind of our thing but, I’ve always been drawn more to the written word – grew up reading and have continued that trend through my adult years and into my senior years – for me, when I watch a movie, I’m just watching words in action and so many times I find myself disappointed in a film because they spend too much time making it look good and not enough time just telling a good story so if given a choice I will usually choose to lose myself in the pages before I march into a darkened theater.

Horror literature is the seed from which my fandom grew and it’s a seed I continue to water to this day.

So, with that all stated today I’m going to veer off our normal track of talking film to make you all aware of a novel by author Paul Tremblay – the name may sound familiar to some of you as he was the author of THE CABIN AT THE END OF THE WORLD – the film version of which was just in theaters – and is likely still available on streaming, should you subscribe to the correct service.

The novel he wrote before that though is titled SURVIVOR SONG and while released during the pandemic, it was written a full year before anyone knew the word COVID-19 – and one of the first written during the time of Trump and the onslaught of “fake news” and our realization of the power of misinformation and the mistrust of science and intelligence. I mention this only because Tremblay leans heavily on what was at that time – a trend just beginning to rear its ugly head.

We’ve all heard the adage, “life imitates art” but on some occasions “art predicts life” – just ask the writers of The Simpsons. It’s almost like Tremblay had some kind of crystal ball and was looking into the future that the coming months after the release of SURVIVOR SONG was going to bring. That alone makes this one scary ass tale.

The story of SURVIVOR SONG is simple, as most great stories are. There is a virus running wild in the state of Massachusetts – while like rabies, it spreads much quicker and is fatal in a very short time frame. We meet Ramola “Rams” Sherman – an English-born pediatrician who happens to be off work the day the infection begins but is preparing to head into work the next day – texting co-workers and watching the madness unfold on the news – hospitals are overrun, government intervention is slow and stunted and misinformation and speculation via social media is fanning the flames of panic. Her co-workers are concerned about the lack of proper PPE and Rams is attempting to be the voice of reason in a quickly escalating situation. (Sound familiar)

A knock at her door changes everything – Natalie has arrived and at this point, this tale really takes off. A neighbor, infected by this virus, had broken into Natalie’s home, killed her husband, and bitten her. Natalie is pregnant, bloody, and terrified. Natalie and Rams are lifelong friends and they – and the rest of us – are about to head out on a journey that none will ever forget.

From this point, the tale becomes a fight to survive as Nat and Rams attempt to get to the hospital at first to get Nat a shot of a vaccine that is said to work if given soon enough after infection and then a race to get to another hospital so the unborn baby can be tended too.

What happens between the time they leave the apartment, and the time they get to the hospital is terrifying, unrelenting, and all too real. The panic, the ignorance, and the complete and total breakdown of any decorum is so frightfully spot on given what we went through with COVID – it makes your head spin. The pair run into a wealth of characters – some empathetic to their plight – others not so much. Militia patrols – people who are afraid of Rams because of her English accent – people fueled by misinformation and the fear caused by it make their journey one of the most harrowing things you are likely ever to read.

SURVIVOR SONG is a horror novel for the new age we all find ourselves a part of now – a product of its time written before we knew this time would ever come. It’s a terrifying look back and hopefully, a precursor that will help ensure we never let the fear of the truth keep us from saving ourselves.

SURVIVOR SONG is out and available wherever you get your books – or audiobooks.

Find it!

Dave Dreher
Co-Founder / Lead News Reporter at Gruesome Magazine
Dave is co-founder and lead news reporter for Gruesome. Dave has built his resume working for Diabolique Magazine, The Horror Channel, Horrornews.net, House of Horrors and Creature Corner. He has worked with Tom Savini on his official site since 1997 and is also co-host of the popular podcast Horror News Radio.