An unsettling, immersive, and wildly entertaining debut novel from an exciting new voice in horror for fans of Paul Tremblay and Stephen Graham Jones.
After publishing his debut novel, The Shattered Man, to disappointing sales and reviews, Campbell P. Marion is struggling to find inspiration for a follow-up. When Edenville College invites him to join as a writer-in-residence, he’s convinced that his bad luck has finally taken a turn.
His girlfriend Quinn isn’t so sure—she grew up near Edenville and has good reasons for not wanting to move back. Cam disregards her skepticism and accepts the job, with Quinn reluctantly following along. But there’s something wrong in Edenville. Despite the charming old ladies milling about Main Street and picturesque sunflowers dotting the sidewalks, poison lurks beneath the surface. As a series of strange and ominous events escalate among Edenville and its residents, Cam and Quinn find themselves entangled in a dark and disturbing history. Told with equal parts horror and humor, Edenville explores the urban legends that fuel our nightmares and the ways in which ambition can overshadow our best instincts. Sam Rebelein is an exciting, sharp new voice, sure to terrify readers for years to come.
I decided to pick up Edenville by Sam Rebelein after I either read or heard Clay McLeod Chapman (I think?) talk about how absolutely bonkers this book is. And he was so incredibly right. Please forgive me if this review is also subsequently bonkers. For fans of the TV show Succession, imagine Kendall Roy as a writer who just got his debut novel published and has been asked to teach at Edenville College. That’s Cam. He proclaims himself to be the most specialist boy. That’s nearly a direct quote. His girlfriend Quinn is understandably skeptical about this job offer since The Shattered Man, Cam’s novel, hasn’t sold all that well. Or reviewed well. Or really done much. Plus, Cam’s not writing anything new. On top of those factors, Edenville is known to be a little, well, weird. Constant stories of strange happenings emerge from the town, and Quinn experienced something otherworldly there herself long ago. So why would Edenville want Cam?
Normally, I am not a fan of cosmic horror. I have a really hard time conceptualizing certain ideas and the abstractness of it all just doesn’t work with my fickle brain. However, the synopsis for Edenville lends itself to appeal to readers like me who are suckers for small-town hauntings with tons of lore and creepy stories. Rebelein allows this brand of horror (that’s my favorite) to intersect with cosmic happenings that are miraculously tied up rather neatly by the end of the book. I was immensely surprised with how much fun I had; there’s a certain level of absurdity and humor that this story leans into, making the overall reading experience so enjoyable.
Quinn, beyond a doubt, was my favorite part of this whole insane journey into the mythos of Edenville. She’s a well-written female character with complexities we can all relate to. While she knows her relationship with Cam is not serving her in the best way, she agrees to follow him in this new endeavor. She doesn’t ask much, only that if she feels things are getting too weird, they will both leave and return to their lives as they knew them before. Anyone wanna guess how Cam handles that when things go sideways? Quinn’s reaction is fueled with palpable anger and frustration; I found myself cheering her on when she finally lets loose and speaks her mind. She really was the shining feature of this story for me.
Now let’s talk about the deeply gross, messed up horror Rebelein somehow managed to conjure up in addition to cosmic, small-town horror. Not only does he write some truly villainous characters, but there are multiple scenes depicting body horror that quite frankly made me want to vomit. Between Cam’s eyes leaking some sort of yellowish goo to the events that transpire within the last few pages of the book, there is no shortage of gruesome, stomach-churning horror. Not only does Rebelein excel at writing these repulsive scenes of bodily harm, but his creativity behind each strange occurrence in Edenville is truly stunning. From Quinn’s harrowing encounter to the overarching mythology of the massacre which Edenville seems to be obsessed with, disturbing tales and backstories run abound. Most impressive of all, nearly all of these stories tie into one another by the story’s conclusion.
Sam Rebelein’s debut novel Edenville is not a predictable story. There is truly no way to prepare yourself for where the events of this story move, but I can nearly guarantee you’ll have a blast along the way. The intermingling of humor with the macabre allows events to transpire at a smooth pace without ever getting too bogged down in itself. Overall, this was such a positive reading experience with a subgenre that normally fails me. If anyone has half as much fun as I did reading Edenville, you’re guaranteed a good time.