"Fangboy" Book Review
Written by Steve Pattee
Published by Delirium Books
I don't think I'll be breastfeeding. – Nathan's mother
Written by Jeff Strand
2011, 226 pages, Fiction
Released April 2011
From birth, Nathan Pepper has had a messed up life. He was born a perfectly healthy, perfectly normal child, well, normal in all regards except for a mouth full of razor sharp teeth. Paranoid on how people would react to their child's mouth-of-death, Nathan's parents kept him as a shut-in for his first six years. Then, the day before his sixth birthday — a very special day where his father promised to take him out to town to buy some candy —his parents died in a freak gas leak accident.
Naturally, Nathan is placed into an orphanage (run by a sadist, no less) where he is abused on a daily basis. Fortunately, he is able to escape that hellhole, and that's when his wacky exploits really begin. Once free, Nathan embarks on the adventure of a lifetime that takes him to strange and wonderful places. Sadly, though, this isn't a happy time, as things always seem to turn out badly, no matter how good they seem at first.
Before Fangboy, I had never read anything by Jeff Strand. I had certainly heard of him. Nominated twice for the Bram Stoker award and author of almost 20 novels, it was inevitable that a work of his would come across my plate. Holy hell, am I glad it was this one.
Fangboy isn't necessarily horror per se. It's got some horrific elements, certainly, such as a child living by himself in the woods for a year or that same kid EATING SPIDERS, but it's not a scary novel in the traditional sense. More so, it's not a book specifically for adults, as it can be enjoyable to children as well. There's very little use of questionable language, not an incredible amount of violence and it even goes so far to tell parents who are reading it to their kids (or the kids themselves) where to stop reading for a bit when he breaks the news that the Tooth Fairy does not exist. But, man, the dark humor in this book is fantastic.
Strand leads Nathan through one horrible journey after another. If you were to take Strand's wicked good comedy out of it, this book would be absolutely evil. Nothing goes right for this kid. Ever. Every time you think he's out of the frying pan, the next page he's in a napalm strike. If it weren't so funny, it would be sad, and kudos to Strand for making me laugh out loud on numerous occasions at whatever predicament Nathan found himself in — except for the spider eating part. There is nothing funny about that.
The narrative style in Fangboy is very similar to a David Sedaris novel. It's all very matter of fact, tongue-in-cheek and razor sharp wit that keeps coming at you. Plus, Fangboy is so lean. It's constantly moving at a breakneck pace, never letting up. I blew through it in a few days, and then gave it a re-read for the hell of it since it does move so quickly.
While Fangboy isn't a stereotypical horror novel, if you have any sort of sense of humor, it's well worth picking up. I enjoyed it so much, I immediately purchased Strand's ebook Wolf Hunt (which, at the time of this writing, you can get for your Kindle for just $2.99). It's rare that I'm so impressed with a first time reading of an author, but one can't deny Strand's talent, and I desperately want to read more.