Friday, June 11, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: Dweller by Jeff Strand

After reading Dweller by Jeff Strand (author of Pressure) I have decided that I want a monster BFF/pet. I have a cat, but she doesn’t hug me, or say my name, or even communicate with me through our own made-up sign language. She doesn’t like to eat people though, so I suppose that’s a good thing.

The first time Toby Floren sees the monster in the woods, he is only 8-years-old and he flees in terror. Seven years later, at age 15, Toby is an outcast. When he encounters the monster this time, his loneliness leads him to befriend it. Toby names him Owen and ventures into the woods frequently to vent his problems to him and to feed him treats (his favourite is ice cream). To Toby, being best friends with a real-life monster is great, except for Owen’s occasional cravings for more substantial, bloodier, treats….

The plot is like a gory version of Harry and the Hendersons, because this is also a tale of a friendship with a Bigfoot-type creature – albeit a Bigfoot with huge fangs and claws. But there are only a few gory scenes; the focus is on the bond between Toby and Owen. And Strand interchanges the dark, intense scenes with humorous ones. He had me laughing several times while reading.

Instead of the novel taking place over the course of a day, week or month, like most novels, Dweller spans Toby’s entire lifetime. But since it isn’t an epic length (only 292 pages), Strand uses a unique method of writing, where he provides “glimpses” of what happens over the years. Usually just a few paragraphs of a funny or important event and sometimes only a line or snippet of dialogue, making Toby’s life seem like it’s flying by and the pace move quickly.

Any horror fan can relate to the main character, Toby, for his desire to have a monster as a best friend. And although Owen is a monster, and the cause of most of the bloodshed in the novel, he is portrayed as a loveable pet. Strand makes the existence of this creature - and even his friendship with a human - plausible. I became attached to both of these characters throughout the course of the novel and was touched by the bond they share.

Dweller is one of the best novels I’ve read. It manages to be funny, scary, gory, sad, happy and touching at the same time. All horror fans, animal lovers or Harry and the Hendersons fans must read this book – actually I think everyone should read this, regardless of literary preference. But beware: it’s a tearjerker.

Rating: 5/5

7 comments:

Joe Monster said...

Aww, that sounds like a really sweet novel. I definitely would like to have a monster for a pet. A werewolf, preferably. That way we could run about causing mayhem every month, pillaging villages, slaughtering innocents, defiling the sheep. You know, buddy stuff!

Will Errickson said...

Someone recommended this to me recently... can't remember who. It does sound fun. But "tearjerker"? Is this a new sub-sub-sub-genre?

Melissa Helwig said...

Joe - Haha defiling sheep? :P Yeah I agree having a pet werewolf would be awesome.

Will - You should check it out. I don't think you'll be disappointed. Haha, I just had to add that I thought it was pretty sad at times, which was a change because I usually don't get that emotion from the horror genre.

Rabid Fox said...

I recall listening to a podcast interview Strand did, talking about this book. It's certainly on my wish list. Very nice review.

The Undead Rat said...

I found this review from Jeff Strand's website and it was very helpful. I have a patron who wanted funny horror with gore. I know she'd like Benjamin's Parasite by Strand but we don't have it at the library. I thought Dweller, which we do have, might work and your review convinced me I was right.

Thank you,
--Greg

Melissa Helwig said...

Rabid Fox - Thanks!

Greg - You're welcome. I hope she enjoys it as much as I did.

Leah said...

I cried sooo much reading this book, I think the most Ive ever cried for a book, which surprised me considering other books that have really tugged at my heart have mostly been books about real happenings such as biographys by previous child soldiers in africa,and such, but this book was fictional, and obviously so since its about a monster but it still had me crying more than I ever have for any other book. It was amazingly good though and had me laughing as well as crying.