Adrift on a sea of clichéd, over-used, beaten-to-death premises, devices, and creatures, Jeff Strand chose a unique route with this particular novel. Well written, suspenseful, sickening- yet truly heart-felt - Dweller stands out from the crowd.
Toby Floren is your average eight year old. He loves comic books; especially ones that focus on science fiction and monsters. In the massive woods behind his house, he re-enacts Martian invasions, alien battles, and whatever else his imagination can conjure. His hand mimics a laser-gun that he uses to shoot at multitudes of imaginary creatures… until one actually steps outside of a cave.
Years pass and we find Toby an adolescent trying to make friends and avoid bullies in high-school. Considered “weird” for his love of the obscure and his artistic renderings of such, the memory of his first encounter with the creature still haunts him. He sneaks out of the house one night with a flashlight and his dad’s shotgun for closure. Following the same path to the best of his memory, he finds the creature’s cave and is amazed when it comes into view.
Obviously frightened, Toby speaks to it in a frantic attempt to save his life. It must want to eat him, right? When the thing gets too close for comfort, Toby raises the shotgun. The creature covers its face and whimpers like a dog that piddled on the carpet. When he takes the barrel off of him, the creature seems as he did before, imposing, yes, but surprisingly docile.
After a few visits, Toby befriends the creature and names him Owen. Having such a creature as a friend is truly amazing, but Toby’s troubles with the bullies and his inability to make friends are more pressing matters. Especially when the bullies get the drop on him one day on his way to visit Owen. On that day...everything changes for Owen and Toby. Forever.
"Dweller" spans Toby’s life and chronicles the ups and the downs throughout. The beauty of this novel and what truly makes it unique is Strand’s use of allegory and device. Yes, we have a creature, but Owen is no monster. Who's to blame for the blood that's spilled? Engaging characters, prose that entangles the reader, and truly heart-breaking, poignant moments take a backseat to the moral that is the underlying mantra: You’re only as sick as your secrets.
Visit jeffstrand.wordpress.com. Buy it today.
Ben Eads is a dark fiction author of short stories and longer fiction. His work tends to represent modern horror coupled with what he likes to call: “Imagination-tickling elements”. Ben is also a huge fan of dark fiction and dark movies. At the age of ten he wrote his first story. Taking writing seriously in early 2008, Ben Eads has published numerous short dark fiction stories in various magazines, anthologies, and E-Zines.