"Blister" Book Review
Written by Steve Pattee
Published by Sinister Grin Press
Written by Jeff Strand
2016, 215 pages, Fiction
Released on June 20th, 2016
If I recall correctly, the first book I read by author Jeff Strand was Fangboy; a delightful, hilarious and at times both horrific and heartbreaking tale about boy with a mouthful of razor sharp teeth, who must fend for himself after losing his parents.
From that, I was hooked on Strand's style and have read numerous of his books, novellas, and collections, including Dead Clown Barbecue, Facial, Faint of Heart, Wolf Hunt, and more. For every book I read of his, I put another on the 'to read' pile, so naturally when Blister was released, I was eager to tear into it. As usual, Strand delivers.
If I had to pick one thing that I liked most about Strand's writing (and it would be very tough, I assure you), it would be how real his characters are. He has this wonderful knack of making them believable. They aren't superheroes. They have self-doubt, insecurity, fear, and all the other things most people experience in life, and Strand eloquently injects the real-life emotions into the people he creates. That skill is on full display in Blister, his latest novel.
Blister has a terrific start. Tired of two punks terrorizing his dog on a daily basis, cartoonist Jason Tray takes it upon himself to teach the little turds a lesson they'll never forget. Things don't go quite as planned, and while the two kids won't be bothering his (or any other animal) in the near future, one of the boys suffers a broken arm in the lesson. Fearing backlash, Jason's publicist banishes him to a cabin he (the publicist) owns until the drama dies down.
One night, soon after he arrives at his forced vacation spot, Jason heads to the local dive bar for some drinks where he meets a couple of locals who convince him to take a look at the town's local living legend, Blister – a young woman with a horribly disfigured face who lives in a shed next to her father's house. Jason reluctantly agrees, takes a peek in the shed, freaks out at the sight, and decides to apologize for his actions the next day because Blister saw his Peeping Tom routine. Things develop.
The magic of Blister is that it goes exactly where you think it will go, until it doesn't. Granted, there are a few turns in the book that you may or may not see coming, but even if you aren't surprised by where Strand takes you, the journey still kicks much ass.
Jason is a very real character. He's self-depreciating (a trait that shows up in many of Strand's creations), almost to a fault, has a big heart, and is intent on doing the right thing, even if it terrifies him. And that's what I relate to him so much. Jason doesn't want to do the right thing at times because he knows it will be physically or mentally painful, but he pushes through because he can't live with himself otherwise. That's what makes him believable. He's not a badass. He's a regular guy who is getting in over his head with a woman who has her own issues to deal with, both internal and external.
Speaking of Blister, how she came to look that way is an integral part of the story, so naturally I won't spoil it for you. But needless to say, she too is a wonderful character. While she talks as if she has an unrealistically high self-esteem – especially considering her situation – it soon becomes clear that she's not as tough as she likes to portray, and it's damn sad.
Blister once again shows the versatility of Strand. The book is equal parts humor, sadness, and at times toe-curling horror – the real-life kind, nothing supernatural here. If you've never read any of Jeff Strand's work, Blister is a great place to start.