Picture the classic slasher movie; the one that made you check the back door was locked at a sleepover, or the one that jumped into your thoughts when walking home through the woods at night. With The Shuddering Ania Ahlborn has perfectly recalled those films, those feelings. When a group of 30 year-olds go to a cabin owned by the brother and sister of the group’s dad, they intend to snowboard and party one last time before the place is sold.
Obviously, it doesn’t work out that way. The book reads like a film. It’s full of blood, guts, and smash cuts. The ways in which the book twists away from the slasher genre, however, are excellent. For example, the reader doesn’t relish deaths; part of the fun of a slasher movie is the ridiculous and twisted ways in which executions are, well, executed, and you don’t care about the characters that die. The Shuddering changes that, and the characters are likeable, real people, and the realisation that nobody is sacred is part of the book’s thrill.
The antagonists are gruesome. There are asides tracking their rise, which work well to build the tension. The description of them is Lovecraftian – difficult to envision, details given in bursts like Alien until it finally clicks. Their acts are really grim and some of the description will make you nauseous, in the good way that the best horror can.
The relationships are well thought-out, and readers will definitely care about how they progress. The character of Sawyer is particularly compelling. A goth in a relationship he’s unsure of, and an old friend and flame of the brother and sister Ryan and Jane respectively, he develops really well, and Ahlborn has managed to convey a feeling of masculine helplessness really interestingly.
When comparing this to a slasher movie, I meant a classic – Halloween, Friday The 13th or My Bloody Valentine – not a remake. This is Ahlborn at her best yet, her least forgiving, and having enjoyed both previous efforts (Seed and The Neighbours) it’ll be great to see what she does next.