April 13, 2015

Brush Off the Clouds and Cheer Up, Put On a Happy Face: a review of Jeff Strand's "Facial"

Facial
by Jeff Strand
DarkFuse (2014)
86 pages
ASIN B00O7Y8UAM
Available at Amazon.com

For a second, I thought Facial was going to be equal parts gritty and sardonic, but it didn't take long to realize that Jeff Strand had far stranger plans in mind with his novella.

Meet Greg. He's got an unfaithful wife. He's not so tore up about her cheating, but one guy she slept with just had to gloat about it. So Greg hired a guy to kill that guy. Then Greg killed the guy he hired to kill that other guy. Now Greg needs to get rid of the guy's body.

Meet Carlton, Greg's brother. Carlton isn't a crime boss. He isn't much of anything really. But he does have a basement, and in that basement is a lion corpse, and underneath that lion corpse is a face. And that face is hungry.

Wait, lion corpse? Yeah, but don't get bogged down on that detail. Focus on the face ... or not. Actually, better not, because people who come in contact with that face ... change. Everything changes really.

If this sounds a little weird to you, you're wrong. It's a lot weird. What is at once a fairly straight-forward tale of revenge and jealousy veers into this unsettling, bloodthirsty tease towards the apocalypse. It's not a threat of some great cataclysm, but just the gradually ramping up of one dead body after the next, and the disquieting realization between the two brothers that their original intentions for taking lives is no longer why they do what they do, and it doesn't seem to bother them that much.

If you're familiar with Jeff's previous work, the touches of humor are certainly there in full display, but I can't recall ever reading one of his books that was quite so bizarre. And that might be saying something, because the guy knows how to inject the bizarre into the mundane. It's a daring story, though readers eager for outright explanations to the uncanny may away scratching their heads ... or their faces.

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