Mass Market Paperback, $7.99
Review by Nickolas Cook
Jeff Strand finally did it!
He impressed me.
That’s right; he finally wrote a book that not only works as a horror novel, but has the thematic poignancy the likes of which most modern mass market horror authors fail to produce, most of them even on a rudimentary level.
Dweller works because it is a simple story of a young boy who befriends a monster in the woods behind his house – something every young boy with any imagination probably does at some point in their young life. The difference here is that the monster isn’t imagined but an orphaned young creature, whose monstrous flesh eating family has been destroyed by humans.
Yes, Strand gives us the requisite scenes of gore and mayhem, suspense and physical terror. But what makes Dweller work on a higher level is the fact that the young boy, Toby, and his pet monster, which he names Owen, are both social outcasts in their own way. Unfortunately, Toby never stops being such, and because of some horrible lapses in judgment, which invariably lead to some fairly horrible consequences that can never be taken back, (And, no, I’m not gonna tell you what there are here, because, trust me, to do so would ruin the fun of the book for you), he spends his life mostly alone and embittered.
Strand does some smart writing here, folks. Because he knows how difficult it would be to put a whole life into such a small space as a 300 page novel, he gives us glimpses: fast forwarded moments in Toby’s life, mostly innocuous, but also telling because of their very ordinariness. Toby is just an everyday guy, after all, who happens to be best friends with a hideous flesh eating creature. And in the end, he’s like most of us: a hardworking guy, who sees humor in the world, and who ultimately just wants to love and be loved. It’s sort of his desperate need for that love which does him the most harm.
But that’s all the spoilers you’re getting from this reviewer. I want you to really dig in and enjoy the story of a boy and his monster, like I did.