The Beast You Are: Stories by Paul Tremblay Review

Ever since A Head Full of Ghosts was recommended to me, Paul Tremblay has been one of my favourite authors. He’s generally one of those I consider an instant buy, too, although I can’t say that I was a big fan of his last release, The Pallbearers Club. It was a decent book, but wasn’t up to par with the rest of his releases, including Disappearance at Devil’s Rock and Survivor Song, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed. In fact, every (horror) book he’d released up until that point had been a success in my eyes, with some being absolute home runs. That’s why he became someone whose work I always looked forward to, especially after announcements that more was to come.

When I saw that Mr. Tremblay was working on a new collection of short stories and novella(s), I got excited again. After all, I loved Growing Things and Other Stories, which I gave a really high review score. It’s one of my favourite short story collections, and is only behind some by Stephen King and Joe Hill. Knowing how good that one was made me have high hopes for this one, which he titled The Beast You Are: Stories. Unfortunately, I ended up expecting too much from it.

Made up of approximately 15 shorts, The Beast You Are includes fourteen short stories and one novella, with the latter being the titular tale. It’s seemingly comprised of a number of previously published narratives, which were part of different collections. I wondered that, because the first story, ‘(Ice Cold Lemonade 25c) Haunted House Tour: 1 Per Person,’ was familar to me from the start. I can’t remember exactly where I read it, but it’s in one of the collections I own or borrowed from the library. That said, it’s a good story about a boy being given a tour of his childhood crush’s home, which she and her sister state is haunted. Part coming-of-age tale and part horror story, it’s one of the better parts of this set.

You can see where all of the other stories were published by looking at the back of the book. There resides a list of everything included in this collection and where it was all previously readable. I don’t think I’d read any of the others before, though, so 14/15 tales were new to me.

If you’re wanting a list of what’s included, here you go:

  • (Ice Cold Lemonade 25c) Haunted House Tour: 1 Per Person
  • Mean Time
  • I Know You’re There
  • The Postal Zone: The Possession Edition
  • Red Eyes
  • The Blog at the End of the World
  • Them: A Pitch
  • House of Windows
  • The Last Conversation
  • Mostly Size
  • The Large Man
  • The Dead Thing
  • Howard Sturgis and the Letters and the Van and What He Found When He Went
  • The Party
  • The Beast You Are

Although I expected a lot of horror when I first began to read The Beast You Are, that wasn’t what I received. In fact, a lot of the stories in this collection are barely horror and could be lumped under other genres. None were particularly scary, either, which was kind of disappointing. Still, there wasn’t one that I really disliked.

These tales include the story of a man whose husband passes away while he’s at work, a party to celebrate the end of the world, a blogger who’s trying to find evidence of why people are suddenly dying, and the tale of a strange building that appears out of nowhere. You’ll also get a couple that are based around what happened in A Head Full of Ghosts, including letters dissecting the reality TV show featured within it, and another tale about the family it was based around. My favourite might have been The Dead Thing, which is about a young boy who brings something strange home in a damp, sweating and stinky old shoe box.

That said, while I didn’t exactly dislike anything included in this collection, none of the stories really stood out or wowed me. They were all decent to pretty good, and some ended better than others. I did like that the author made fun of himself within one of them, because he included a letter written by a fictional character who called him out for not ending his stories properly. That gave me a laugh. In fact, I do wish some of these had ended more succinctly, but Paul Tremblay is known for being ambiguous and I still love most of his stuff regardless.

What I’m really trying to get at, and perhaps circling around too much, is that The Beast You Are: Stories was slightly disappointing. Going in, I had really high hopes for the next short story collection from Paul Tremblay, because the last one was so great, much like most of his (horror) books. However, while I was reading through this one, and after finishing it in just a day or two, I merely felt whelmed at best. There’s stuff to like here, but there’s nothing noteworthy unfortunately. Half of the book is also taken up by a single novella about a society of animals which sacrifices someone to a massive, hill-like, monster every thirty years, while dealing with other issues like a cult and an assassin. I liked that one more as it went along, but it never truly clicked with me.

Paul Tremblay is a really good writer, though, and that’s evident throughout this new collection. He’s got a great imagination, too, which is also clear herein and in his other works. This one simply didn’t connect with me as much as I had hoped, or as much as his previous works — well, almost all of them — had.

If you haven’t read Growing Things and Other Stories, that’s the better purchase when it comes to Paul Tremblay’s short story collections. It’s an absolute winner. The Beast You Are: Stories is just okay, and it pains me to have to write that. I was expecting to be publishing a much more positive review, and am saddened that I’m not.

This review is based on a digital advanced reader copy that we were provided by its publishers, HarperCollins and William Morrow. Thank you to them, and Edelweiss for facilitating it. Receiving a free copy did not sway our opinion or our final review score.

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