A Head Full of Ghosts Review


A Head Full of Ghosts: A Novel - Paul Tremblay

Green vomit, violent masturbating, naughty language… Doesn’t schizophrenia Satan have any new tricks up his sleeves? Because, you know, a woman masturbating and cursing is definitely a sign of evil. How unladylike unholy!

First, I must say, I might just raise my rating of Josh Malerman’s Bird Box after reading this book. At least Malerman tried something new. On to the review…

There’s this fad going around where reboots change the endings of the source material to be the exact opposite of the source material. If the source material (in this case The Exorcist) is supernatural, the reboot will make it non-supernatural, or perhaps it will imply supernatural along with the plausible real-life scenario.

And because I’m bound to get people who say I’m hating on someone who’s been successful, let me prove my points. I give you…

Exhibit A:

Tremblay took the easy way out and rebooted The Exorcist for a modern, blogger-friendly, internet age. He does nothing new. To cover this up, he plays the meta card. “Oh, look! I reference all the shit I steal from, so it’s okay that I stole from them. Right? I’m so cute and self aware!”

Exhibit B.

In my opinion, the blogs ruined the book. Every time I started to enjoy the subtle horror, or even the overt scares, he jumped into this hipster-speak blogging bullshit that murdered all forward momentum. Then, in the end, he uses the blogger bullshit to effectively reveal that he believes all his readers are morons without any reader comprehension skills. Peep this:

You’re a grown adult with life experiences and an above average IQ (a.k.a. your average adult reader) and someone gives you a rudimentary puzzle to solve. The puzzle pieces are perfectly square and number eight. The picture is of, say, the Pokemon logo, the title image of POKEMON in that garish yellow-and-blue font. As long as you can read, you’re good. This puzzle will take an adult of average intelligence (anyone literate) about ten seconds to complete. If that. Then you notice the pieces are numbered. Top row: one through four. Bottom row: five through eight. Now you don’t even have to be able to read. All you have to do is be able to count.

THAT is THIS book. It insults your intelligence. Tremblay explains everything that happens in the final exorcism scene and then switches to these blog posts to SPELL EVERYTHING OUT FOR YOU BECAUSE HE THINKS YOU’RE:

A) Dumb

B) Illiterate

C) At the VERY least, not as clever as him.

D) All of the above.

If you picked D, you win and lose at the same time because you’re likely right.

He tries to make up for this assumption that you’re somewhere between dinosaur and caveman on the IQ scale by leaving one last hint in the final chapter. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, talk amongst yourselves.

But the implied ending makes zero sense. None. It is the literary equivalent to the ending of Paranormal Activity, when the possessed chick jumps at the camera. Or perhaps the hand reaching from the grave at the end of Carrie. Makes no sense, but it sure is spoooooooooky!

In summation: The tragedy is, had Tremblay left out the blogger sections, I would have given this three stars or above. It does have some creepy shit going on. Nothing you haven’t seen before, but it might raise the hair on your bush. Problem is, it’s not enough; nowhere near enough to excuse his attitude toward his readers, the implication that he’s writing for morons. The best piece of writing advice I ever got was this: “Always assume your readers are smarter than you, because they probably are.”

Final Judgment: Robocop (2014)

Spoiler discussion: Wherein I spoil Paul Tremblay’s A Head Full of Ghosts:



I know some of you are thinking, Marjorie wasn’t schizo. I know she wasn’t. Her father was the crazy one and blah, blah, blah. My opening comments are a riff on the reality of possession. I don’t believe in gods or devils. But I do believe in mental illness.

There will be some that say I missed the whole point of the unreliable narrator here. I fully accept that you think Merry could have made up this entire thing because she was the one that was possessed instead of Marjorie. But she couldn’t have, because of the reality show. Unless we assume that the reality show wasn’t real, and the entire book is a lie. If that’s the case, it still doesn’t work, because it takes away the horror of the novel because nothing actually happened. It was all the product of some possessed writer with nothing better to do that to write a book. No matter how you look at it, one-star. But I’m not giving up on Tremblay and here’s why:

I did like the poisoning scene at the end. Really dug how Tremblay described everyone dying. Dude is capable of great description. He simply needs to trust his readers more.

Thanks for joining me.


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