A Head Full of Ghosts

A Head Full of Ghosts

Paul Tremblay

309 Pages

Accessed as an Ebook

$11.99 at the time of writing

This book is one of those genre spanning books that can be so slippery and hard to pin down that you end at dark fiction and call it good.

With some novels that becomes a burden-the reader is forced to wade through so many style changes and tropes that it becomes almost more work than what the pay off is worth. However, in this case, it works for the plot and in a lot of ways the plot throws side way glances at genre, like the way that Tremblay pulls from so many genres is the point of the entire thing.

Tremblay doesn’t give us a true academic horror novel, but there’s enough depth here to keep a reader who needs complexity in their horror happy. The book is meta, but stays within the bounds of mainstream fiction enough to not require too much thought-up until the last chapter (and arguably the last 10 pages or so of the book) when the reader is forced to confront who, or what, the driving force of the novel has been the entire time.

I am not using the word conflict here deliberately. At its core, the book centers around the tensions of the Barrett family when the family patriarch, John, decides to approach his elder daughter Marjorie’s mental illness as a possession-and then decides to use reality television as the site of her healing. The plot is narrated by Merry, the younger daughter, both as an adult in the near future and as her 8 year old self at the time of the possession in what is roughly now.

The possession plot is actually solid enough that if the novel were less complex (and again here the complexity isn’t forced or overly dense or artificial), the book would still be interesting. Tremblay manages to find several rather novel additions to the demonic possession subgenre, enough that it doesn’t feel like a replay of the Exorcist or other possession classics (though in one of the meta zones the novel questions its own ability to avoid that). However. It is truly the end of the book that forces the reader to sit up and question who or what was the real villain or force at play here-because the ending of the novel is both disquieting and a touch confusing in all the best ways, and certainly forces a perspective change on everything that has come before.

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