Publisher: Sinister Grin Press
Publication Date: 21st June 2016
REVIEWED BY KIMBERLY
A copy of Blister by Jeff Strand was sent to Confessions of a Reviewer by the publishers, Sinister Grin Press, in exchange for an honest review. This is said review.
Blister, by Jeff Strand, is a novel that I hardly know how to begin categorizing. However, the things that you can count on when picking up any title by this author, is that you are diving into something original, fresh, with unforgettable characters, and usually a heavy dose of dark humor, laced with sarcasm all throughout. It has gotten so that whenever Jeff Strand has a new release coming out, it immediately goes into the “buy now” category.
The story begins with Jason Troy, a cartoonist who spends most of his time indoors drawing the comic strip Off Balance, featuring Zep the beetle. Aside from Chuck Rhodes, his agent and publisher, his conversational skills are usually only practiced upon his pet schnauzer, Ignatz. With this set of circumstances, it’s no real surprise when his agent orders him to take a “forced vacation”, and get out of the public eye for a while.
“ . . . I was glad that Chuck had banished me from polite society for a while. When I returned to Florida, I’d be more relaxed and perhaps less inclined to frighten the neighborhood kids.”
It doesn’t take long for Jason to grow bored in Chuck’s less-than-rustic cabin, fishing and enjoying the country. He heads out to a small bar used by the locals, and after a few drinks, finds himself being led to a shed to catch a glimpse of a young woman they refer to as Blister, due to her severe facial scars and burns.
By the next morning, feeling incredibly guilty for his drunken antics, Jason decides to drive out to the shed and apologize in person. After working his way past Malcolm, an overprotective father with a penchant for guns, he meets Rachel, face to . . . mutilated face.
“ . . . I try to be sunshiny, but the whole ‘grotesque monster’ part gets in the way.”
From that point on, the characters, the town’s past, and of course, Jason and Rachel, take over completely. I could never tell in advance what direction this novel would take, only that I was loving every minute of it. It would have been a severe test of will if I hadn’t finished this book in record time. I can honestly say that I never once felt as though I were reading mere filler at any point; all scenes and conversations were there to propel the novel forward. With small talk, such as the following, how could you even think of leaving these characters?
“ . . . Let’s say that these horrible little kids were throwing rocks at your dog, and you asked them nicely to stop, and then you went to one of their mothers and she didn’t care. So, the next time they threw rocks, you burst out of your house with a fake severed head and a fake chainsaw, and you were covered with fake blood, and the kids flipped out and ran away, and one of them fell and broke his arm. Is that funny?”
The atmosphere of the small-town community is the perfect setting for this type of story. Anything less wouldn’t have let the intensity of emotions fester as well. In a large town, Rachel’s story would have been but one tragic event of many. Here, where everyone knows their neighbors’ secrets, opinions and prejudices don’t go away, they stay, turning one person’s trauma into a local monster story.
“I can’t help but feel that maybe you aren’t understanding that your father has you locked in there. There’s a padlock on the door.”
Due to Jason’s unconventional lifestyle, and limited human interaction, the story actually seems plausible, in that he would find an honest friendship with someone that everyone else would avoid, except to flaunt their inbred cruelty. Naturally, this change in the balance of their community has its repercussions, as people in this town don’t take kindly to change.
“ . . . I’m not trying to criticize your parenting skills, but I think I can read people well enough to decide if they’re the type of person who wants to be locked in a shed for the rest of their life . . .”
In a way that only Strand can pull off, so convincingly, even the most outrageous, unthought-of twists come off as feeling practically natural. No matter what is thrown at the reader in terms of the novel’s content, it is easy to accept the most peculiar and outlandish scenarios as not only true, but the only way it could have played out.
Overall, this was a solid five-star read for myself. In addition to the fantastically detailed characters and perfect location for this story to unfold, Strand’s unique and unconventional wit makes Blister stand out among so many others. Whether you’re looking for horror, humor, an oddly formed version of love, or gratuitous violence, you’ll find all that and more in this novel. One thing that you are sure to come away with, no matter how malignant and vile the monsters we imagine, nothing comes close in comparison to the capacity for evil in the human monster.
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They call her Blister. She’s a hideously disfigured twenty-three-year-old woman, living in a shed next to her father’s house, hidden away from the world.
Jason Tray is a successful cartoonist, banished to his agent’s lakeside cabin for a few days of mandatory rest and relaxation. One night, while hanging out with a couple of the locals at a dive bar, he takes them up on their offer to go “see Blister,” having no idea what they’re talking about.
He peeks through the window at the most nightmarish thing he’s ever seen.
In the morning, he wakes up, hung over and regretful. He’s better than this. He needs to…apologize?
From the Bram Stoker Award-nominated author of PRESSURE, DWELLER, and WOLF HUNT comes a tale of fiendish secrets, ghastly crimes, and human monsters.
Jeff Strand is a four-time nominee (and zero-time winner) of the Bram Stoker Award.
His novels are usually classified as horror, but they’re really all over the place, from comedies to thrillers to drama to, yes, even a fairy tale.
His book STALKING YOU NOW is being made into the feature film MINDY HAS TO DIE.
Because he doesn’t do cold weather anymore, he lives in Tampa, Florida with his wife and cat.
And for about Jeff, visit his site, or find him on social media: