Written by: Matthew J. Barbour
Matt Shaw is a prolific writer with over 50 stories to his name. The majority of these stories are novellas or short novels. Many of his most well-known works are instantly identifiable by their unadorned black covers labeling them as part of his extreme collection. These include: Porn, Rotting Dead F*cks, and Sick Bast*rds. However, The Cabin Books is not part of this series. Instead, it reflects a more nuanced horror.
The Cabin Books combines two previously released novellas, The Cabin and The Cabin II: Asylum, into a single volume. The two works represent equal parts of a larger narrative.
The story focuses on an American family on a small vacation to their cabin in the Vermont wilderness. The cabin is situated near an old asylum and local legend has it that the ghosts of former patients roam the countryside. If you hear one scream, you die one year later.
Both, The Cabin and Asylum, are told from the perspective of the father, Craig. He has come to the cabin to finish his latest novel, but becomes involved in a horrible set of events which leads to the death of a shop clerk and Craig fleeing for his life. Now, Craig must spend a night in the cabin alone. At least that is what he is believes, until he begins to hear sounds outside the cabin.
The Cabin Books are a traditional ghost story. Like many traditional ghost stories, there may or may not be an actual ghost. The horror is psychological. Craig is reeling from the very real consequences of his actions. Is the ghost a product of his guilt or a sinister spirit bent upon driving him insane?
As admitted by the author, the ghost story is inspired heavily by such films as The Grudge and The Ring. However, Shaw manages to capture the audience with his social commentary, specifically towards gun violence in America.
It should be noted that Shaw is a British author. Because of the laws in his country, Shaw felt that positioning the tale in Great Britain would make it less believable. So, he chose New England for his setting. Surprisingly, The Cabin Books read clearly American, even though the author has never even visited the former British colony. If not for Shaw’s trademark first person style, the reader would be left with no indication that this was a Matt Shaw book.
This being said, The Cabin Books is by no means Matt Shaw’s finest work. The characters are intentionally written as typical Americans without much depth and the tale is standard ghost story fare. Fans of the extreme collection looking for splatterpunk horror will be disappointed. There is none to be found. Still for those who interested in a slowly building horror reminiscent of gothic literature, it is worth a read.