... does what we expect the work of our best writers to do: reflect our world from a surprising perspective so that we might better see its beauty and contradictions, its comforts and aches. In these 19 stories, Tremblay doesn’t just hold a mirror up to reality, but live-streams it, projecting the whole spectrum of our modern anxieties so vividly it feels as if we’re watching in real time ... Whatever the subject, Tremblay’s perspective guides the experience, bringing readers back to what interests him most: the distortions of technology, the dangerous unreliability of other people, and how we survive in a changing, often unknowable world.
And god, these stories. They take you like a bullet just south of the heart, opening something up inside you that feels awful and wrong and full of poison ... should be read in order for the full effect. The placement of every single story doesn't matter, but the placement of some of them absolutely do. It should be read in big, frantic gulps, like breathing while nearly drowning. And when you're done, read the author's notes at the end. Because Tremblay explaining himself is precisely the kind of decompression required. To sit, for just a moment, with the entirely normal man behind these stories and have him tell you that it's all okay, that they really are just stories, nothing more, written between preparing for the classes he had to teach and vacations with his family, is ... comforting somehow. A slow return to reality.
... brilliantly takes ordinary situations and seamlessly sprinkles in a sense of unease that quickly builds to a sense of pure horror ... All are anchored by a variety of strong narrative voices that expertly guide the reader through extremely dark emotions, smoothing out the potentially bumpy ride into an enjoyable experience to terrifying depths. These are stories that live in the increasing popular space between literary fiction and horror, where speculative terrors and very real universal truths collide, much like the works of Stephen Graham Jones, John Langan, and Jac Jemc.
Like all of Tremblay’s horror work, the most successful pieces in Growing Things are the stories where he scoops up genre conventions, holds them tenderly, and refashions them into something immediately recognizable and yet completely fresh ... Readers expecting traditional scares will need to recalibrate their expectations ... that’s really Tremblay’s greatest gift. He’ll tell you exactly what happened in a story. He’ll show you the monster crawling out of a swamp, he’ll show you photographs of the literal demons haunting an author, he’ll show you a man accepting the gift of a perfectly formed miniature bird’s head, and he’ll tell you a story about a pawn shop robbery gone horribly wrong, but for all the precision and detail, you still won’t be entirely sure what happened. Sometimes empty spaces are a gift we should cherish.
... it’s safe to say that readers who enjoy Tremblay’s novels are going to appreciate the dynamic the short stories share with them ... shows Tremblay’s facility with segmented narratives. A number of the book’s selections are built from chapters or fragments that invite the reader to apply his or her own worst imaginings as the glue that stitches their pieces together ... Tremblay’s willingness to work in the creative universes of other artists as well as his own, and to do it so well, says more about his versatility and fearlessness as a writer than any of the foregoing commentary can.
Paul Tremblay not only gives readers a diverse collection of short stories, but asks them to think about writing, genre and the role of the author in ways that challenge his own power as creator without sacrificing style or skill. The 19 stories here move beyond a narrow understanding of horror, opting often for sensation, thoughtfulness, and an exploration of fear itself over jump scares and gore. There are moments when the veil is lifted, and Tremblay seems to reveal himself, which is never distracting but intriguing. Thus it is a very writerly collection that still is enjoyable for readers ... as with all collections, not every story is a winner ... Even as characters discuss the pros and cons of horror world building, the marketability of short story collections, and the role and responsibility of authors themselves, Tremblay, in examining these big literary questions, entertains. Growing Things is a provocative book, showing some of the ways that horror and other genres can be thoughtful, wide-reaching and literary.
Packed with smart, engrossing stories, Growing Things shows Tremblay is as adept at short fiction as he is at writing novels and proves he’s one of the best, most innovative writers in contemporary horror ... There are no throwaways in this collection ... Tremblay’s oeuvre shares a number of cohesive elements that make his work some of the best in contemporary horror. Chief among them are uncertainty and tension. In Tremblay’s novels and short stories, the reader is always placed on shaky ground and nothing is what it seems. Those elements are abundantly present here. Scaring someone is an art form, and Tremblay has mastered it by understanding that not everyone will react equally to monsters and ghosts, but no one will be unaffected by a sense of discomfort and ambiguity brought forth by the realization that they don’t know what’s going on. We fear the unknown, and in these stories, we don’t know anything ... The brilliant use of memory as a muddying device and the economy of language make It Won’t Go Away a perfect example of how effective Tremblay is with the short form ... Tremblay is at the forefront of his generation, taking horror into uncharted territory via unique formats, groundbreaking storytelling, and smart experimentation, and this collection shows he’s still improving. The depth and interconnectedness of these short stories to each other, to the author, and to previous work make it easy for fans of horror to start discussing the Tremblay mythos without batting an eye.
... on view are the author’s quirky sense of humor and coy, self-referential style — some of the most interesting stories feature a horror-writer protagonist who resembles Tremblay ... includes notes in which Tremblay offers 'odds, ends, anecdotes, and rants' that provide fascinating insight into the author’s process and style ... The lack of explanation for the sources of the horror in these stories may be frustrating for some readers, but the ambiguity serves to enhance the fear and dread. And that, after all, is why we read horror in the first place.
In its range and assortment of techniques, it’s Tremblay’s most ambitious book; it’s also a work that abounds with references to his other novels, although prior knowledge of them is not required to make sense of these ... exists in a strange liminal state: in certain places, it links up with Tremblay’s larger bibliography, and gives a fine sense of his recurring themes and images. But it’s also a showcase for his range as an author, and a place for him to experiment with things that might not click on the scale of a longer work. There’s plenty to applaud here, but even more to send readers shivering—a fine blend of technique and terror.
... a tough read because it's terrifying in an unusual way, so it’s not a surprise that these frighteningly imaginative slices of horror are often far more chilling than their relatively mundane inspirations ... Tremblay is among the best in the literary business but chooses to play in a fairly specific genre, which is pretty much horror taken to another plane. Well-written, yes. But scary as hell, which is an equally admirable trick to accomplish ... From high fantasy to monsters to (literally) Hellboy, something for everyone who digs things that go bump in the night.