Reviews In The Machine : The Cabin & After The Cabin
I don’t think that the horror genre is inherently suited for sequels. Or rather, to put more accurately, I often don’t feel like sequels in horror movies and books are executed in such a way as to merit their creation in the first place. Sequels have the automatic challenge of seeming like a cash grab, a paper thin attempt to profit even more on the success of the previous installment. And horror genre seems to make this fact all the more obvious. Usually what you end up with is a slightly modified plot featuring the same monster in what ends up essentially being another version of the original.
And I realize this begs the question, considering that this review is about Amy Cross’ duo of books, The Cabin and After The Cabin, where exactly am I going with this? Is this just a preamble to me ripping the books to shreds?
I would like to think that question would be answered merely by our invitation for Amy to answer some questions about her work, an interview just posted last week. We wouldn’t ambush her like that. I think that these two books are a perfect example of sequels done right. Any authors out there who are contemplating their own sequels or series should take note of these two books.
What I think makes them so strong is the fact that the second book, After The Cabin could also stand in its own. It isn’t just a bland repetition of the book that preceded it. I would even go so far as to say that these books could effectively be read in any order. The natural order would be to start with The Cabin and move on to After The Cabin but you could reverse them and still enjoy the experience.
I think The Cabin typifies what I think is the strongest aspect of Cross’s writing, namely that it doesn’t seem to conform to the borders of any specific genre. The Cabin has elements of thriller as well as both supernatural and extreme horror. Her writing often seems to be multi-flavored and this is no exception.
The story itself is simple, a group of friends leaving for Norway for a short trip and it isn’t long before we figure out that there is more going on than we might have realized. We find ourselves witnessing a harrowed fight to survive a nightmarish situation.
There is one aspect of writing that is extremely important to me and it is one that Cross easily clears. In her book, all of the characters get time to try and come off as sympathetic. Even the evil ones. And while their actions aren’t necessarily forgiven over the course of the book, you at least get to see the world through their eyes. It’s simple to create an unsympathetic, drooling psychopath. The real challenge is in crafting a character who does awful things and then get the reader to relate to them.
Amy Cross seems to love showing you one thing while sneaking up behind you with something else. The supernatural aspects of the story are hinted at throughout but by the time they come into play, it’s in a way that I never would have guessed or expected. And again, like the human monsters, these aren’t your typical moaning, chain-rattling by-product of indigestion.
Everyone gets the chance to shine in this book.
The net result is that this feels like a fully balanced story that is all the more effective, from not being overly focused on one specific person. It’s a frightening tale to read, heightened by the isolation of the setting and from the occasional moments of extreme content that Cross places within the story.
It’s the kind of story that is hard to end in a way that is credible and entertaining but Cross does a good job with it. And instead of a final act that feels arbitrarily molded by the creator, it feels like a natural progression of the narrative.
A poorly done concept for a sequel to this would be simply to repeat the formula of the first book, with some details changed. I can hear the cheesy movie trailer voice in my head. “You’ve experienced the terror of The Cabin. Now check in to the indescribable horrors of … The Chalet.”
Cross doesn’t go the standard route and instead turns the narrative of the first book on its head. She goes so far as to imply to both the protagonist but also the reader that the events of the first book may not have happened at all. It’s probably the first time I’ve been essentially gaslighted by a narrative voice but the technique was highly effective. There were several points where I had to concede the possibility that things may not have happened how they were perceived. It puts you in a position where you find yourself doubting a character you were just rooting for.
I said at the beginning of this that the horror genre isn’t necessarily suited for sequels. With this however, it really was like I was reading one large piece. The story in After The Cabin feels much more like a psychological thriller and I think the decision to turn the narrative inward was brilliant. The protagonist is facing new threats in this book but instead of arbitrarily created new monsters, the vengeful brother who returns from traveling overseas for example, the new threats she now faces comes essentially from her own unconscious
If I’m not making this clear enough. These are two books you should be checking out. This is an author that should be getting far more recognition than she gets. Head over to her Amazon author page and grab up a few free books. I’ve read about ten of them so far and I’m yet to be disappointed.
Support a fantastic artist today.
CHECK OUT AMY’S AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE.