Author: Baylea Hart
Publisher: Unbound Digital
Terrified you crawl further into the corner, moving away from the light as you seek the dark. The thing in the room sniffs, searching for you, its sharp claws clicking on the wooden floor. Desperately you reach out for a weapon to defend yourself with, laying hands on the nearest object within reach. Grasping, panicking, you pull towards you…. a blurb:
“The forest is a deadly place. Nobody knows this better than Penny. She has spent her whole life hiding in the darkness, shielding herself from the terrors that watch and wait within the trees. When Penny is abandoned and left for dead in the forest, she is forced to navigate this terrifying labyrinth in order to return home to her son and take revenge on the woman who tried to kill her. But the murderous creatures with the false smiles aren’t the only monsters to lurk in the forest, and some demons may be closer than she thinks.”
The Log House is a very difficult book to write a review of. Have you seen the film Memento? The one starring Guy Pearce, where it is told backwards and we discover who Leonard is and what is happening to him as we go along so that the end of the film is actually the beginning?
Yeah? Well, The Log House is quite similar to that in that we know bugger all at the start, but as the book unfolds we learn everything we need to know and so by the end we know the beginning. Got it?
So you see my problem? What do you mean ‘no’? You see, I don’t like to post spoilers in my reviews, or at least I try not to wherever possible, but it will be hard not to give some stuff away here without spoiling the enjoyment of discovering it all for yourself.
So be warned that there will be MILD spoilers coming up. Not many, and nothing that will really give too much away that you may not read elsewhere, but you are warned. If you want to read my spoiler-free conclusion then skip ahead to the photo of Baylea at the end and read from there 😉
The world has gone to poo-poo. Quite how it’s all gone tits up is not clear at the start, but humanity appears to be holed up in safe houses such as the one we find ourselves in at the start of the book. Within this house lives Penelope, or Penny. She lives here with an assortment of other people going about their daily business as you do when the world as you know it has ended. There’s generally lots of cleaning, repairing, fetching stuff, chopping stuff, burning stuff, cooking stuff and tense conversations between other occupants who have different ideas to how stuff should be done and how you should do stuff in particular. You know, it’s the general post-apocalyptic-stuck-in-a-house-together-slowly-going-mad-state-of-affairs, really.
However, for Penny there is an added complication; she has a child. A son.
Woah there Mr. Beardy Book Blogger, hold the review!! *insert sound effect of record abruptly stopping here* You can’t go around saying that children are a complication! There may be children reading this very review. There will be letters!
Listen, listen, calm your tits people because, you see, her son is the first child to be born in 27 years. Yep, there appears to be a bit of a fertility issue in this world. AND to add further complication upon this complication (yes, yes, we’ve been through that so shush), the father happens to be another person’s husband.
See? Not so quick to tell me off now, are we? *smug face*.
Anyway, Penny has spent her whole life within the confines of the house. She was born there, one of the last children in the world to have been born, and knows nothing else. Enter Mary, a young woman a few years older than Penny and someone she has known all her life. She is also someone that Penny hates. Like, seriously hates. The reasons for this are not immediately clear, but from the off it would seem that Mary is not happy with the way that Penny is bringing up her son. Tensions between the two women run high and one day Mary takes Penny outside to talk. Penny is deeply afraid of the world outside of the safe house; an undescribed menace lurks without. But there is another menace much closer to Penny and before she knows it she is waking up with a very sore head in a set of drawers floating down a river and heading towards a waterfall. As you do.
And so begins Penny’s journey to return to the safe house and to her son and to get revenge on the woman she believes put her in mortal danger – Mary.
Let me make something clear from the start – I really don’t like Penny. She is selfish, self absorbed, deluded and, well, a bit of a cow really. The Log House is told entirely from Penny’s POV, though in the third person, and she falls firmly into the unreliable narrator category. To be fair, she has grown up in a tough world, in one house, with same people, all her life. She hasn’t even had a holiday. She has never seen the sea. She has never experienced soft toilet roll (side note: where would you get bog roll from in this world, or in any post apocalyptic scenario? You never see this addressed in the movies, huh?). I bet she’s never even eaten a danish pastry. Can you imagine? Never have eaten a delicious pastry such as an almond croissant? A pain au chocolat? A cinnamon bun? I would be a right grumpy, miserable sod too, to be fair. But although Penny isn’t a particularly likeable character you find yourself rooting for her to get back to the safe house alive. As her journey progresses we slowly get to know Penny more; or at least we get to know the Penny inside her head. We have the occasional flashback to a traumatic event in her childhood, involving the Log House of the title, and her father, one that also involves Mary in some way. As far as Penny is concerned Mary is to blame for everything. Above all else it is revenge that is motivating her to return the the safe house; not so much the desire to see her son, who she fears will fall into Mary’s clutches.
Throughout the narrative we have the odd chapter that takes us back to earlier times in the safe house and here we get to meet some of the book’s other characters and gain further insight into Penny’s relationship with Mary and her motivation for her hatred. Penny also comes across other characters in the woods during her journey, none of whom are particularly pleasant. Despite not being a very likeable character you do feel sorry for her as she falls into crappy situation after crappy situation, even if you do lose sympathy at times as she resorts to doing some very questionable things to get out of them. The people that she meets are all driven by the need to survive in the hostile world that they now live in. The cause of the disaster that befell humanity is not at all clear at first, but Baylea slowly drip feeds us the details as the story progresses revealing a truly disturbing and terrifying denouement. At first I thought that Penny had grown up and was living within some sort of doomsday cult scenario; the terrors of the outside world being the very real terrors of nature – bears, wolves and the like – used against her and the other house members to keep them in line and from straying too far. The unseen terror that follows Penny after her trip down the river could easily have been a bear or similar, but once she meets up with a particularly deranged acquaintance it becomes clear that it is far more, and far more sinister, than mere wildlife. Baylea perfectly conveys Penny’s fear and outright petrification at what lies in wait all around her.
Don’t mistake my dislike for Penny as critisism, btw. I messaged Baylea on Twitter after I finished the book and told her this and she was very pleased at my feelings. She is a very well written character; a complicated, emotionally damaged woman, desperate to survive in a world where everything has gone to shit. There is hope of a kind, but it is a tiny hope, and one in which I hope that Baylea might consider revisiting in a future book. This world is most definitely ripe for further stories and I hope that we shall see them.
This book is also a kind of reinvention of sorts of a well worn, traditional horror trope/genre. Again, I won’t say what, but hopefully you’ll see what I mean if you read it.
Hello to all of you spoiler avoiders. What’s that? Did you miss anything interesting? Well, d’uh, you totally missed some really cool shit, but that’s the price you pay for wishing to remain in the dark, innit? I guess you’re here to find out my overall thoughts on the book, right? Ok:
I really, really enjoyed The Log House (and not the *Blog* House, as I keep calling it!). I found it to be a truly creepy, disturbing and wonderfully well written debut. It has a fascinating protagonist in Penelope – an emotionally damaged woman, surviving in a world changed beyond recognition – with a terrifying and right bloody scary premise. One that truly squeezes the life out of the central story and of the hopes of those living in this damaged world (there might be a tiny spoiler in that sentence..bwaa hahahahahahah 😉 ). It takes a well worn horror genre and gives it a well deserved kick up the arse. If you like your horror to be character driven and properly disturbing then The Log House may just be the book for you. I think that we shall be seeing a lot more of young Baylea in the future and I can’t wait.
Oh, just buy it!
Don’t forget to check out the other stops on The Log House Blog Tour. You might be missing out on some really cool shizzle if you don’t!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Baylea Hart is an IT Technician by day, horror writer by night and a reader everywhere in between. In 2013 she wrote, directed and edited the short film Behind the Door, which won a Top 50 spot in the Bloody Cuts “Who’s There?” competition and as of 2015 has over 410,000 views on YouTube.
In October 2015 she won the Bristol Horror Writing Competition with her short story Jack in the Box, and her short story Eyes Open was published in the 12th issue of 9Tales Told in the Dark.
Baylea’s debut novel The Log House was published by Unbound in 2018.
She can be found on Twitter and on her website