What is a Sick House, anyway? Is it another name for a hospital? I went online looking for the definition, because I remember in the South where I grew up, folks used "Sick House" to describe a home that just reeked of disease. It wasn't just a place where people lived that were ill, or had been sick at one time or another, but a house that was itself sick, in the floors, in the walls, in the roof. Haunted, moist, dark places where it's not even reasonable to hope that in the end, you might get well.

Just when you think Jeff Strand has run out of absurd and horrifying descriptions for another could-this-get-any-weirder roller coaster ride of a story, you'll turn the page, and find out you are wrong. There's more. And more. And still more. Go ahead. Turn another page. Go on, now.

What, are you scared?

Jeff Strand says, "GOOD!"

This is not the first of his books I have read, but I enjoyed it as much as the others, maybe more. Strand's style is hilarious, creative, gory, bizarre, scary, over-the-top insanity and this tale did not disappoint. If you think that being "on your brand" is being a creative sell-out, then don't read what I am about to say. Jeff Strand hits his brand with this story. I wish I could tell you how many times I laughed out loud, and then got creeped out, and grossed out, then laughed again. Strand stories do jerk you around like a rag doll. You should expect this.

Sick House begins with a sweet family with kids: Boyd, his wife Adeline, and daughters Paige and Naomi. They eat pizza, talk about school, and enjoy being with each other just like any happy family, right? Only you know as you read the endearing banter they are having around the dinner table that something is ABOUT TO GO VERY WRONG. As you keep reading you might find your hands are getting a little sweaty as you turn pages. No worries; you're perfectly safe, just listening as the family chit chats about some weird stuff that's been happening lately and what maybe could be wrong with this house they just moved into.

"What if it was built on an ancient Indian burial ground?"
"You're not supposed to say 'Indian' unless you're talking about people from India."
"What if it was built on an ancient Indian burial ground where people from India were horribly murdered?"
"Then we should probably move."

Like Strand's Poltergeist movie (1982) reference? Me too. There's other fun trivia in this book for horror fans if you pay attention. Here's a jewel you'll like:

"But, as Harry Cooper argued in Night of the Living Dead—and, ultimately, he'd been right in the basement vs. upstairs issue—it was only one door to guard."

In writing classes they always say "don't write something that takes the reader out of the story" and "slaughter your darlings." Jeff Strand is one of the few people I know who can take you out of the story with something absurd AND YET YOU ARE STILL THERE IN THE STORY. You can't get out now. Too late. You should have left when he was telling you how sweet and normal this family is. You could have picked another, safer book to buy. And slaughter your darlings? Did you really say that?

Highly recommend this book for fans of horror and bizarro genre fiction.

Review by Laura Long

No comments

The author does not allow comments to this entry