Thursday, April 22

Pressure by Jeff Strand

A few weeks ago I reviewed Jeff Strand's Dweller here on Paperback Horror. I was incredibly happy to pronounce it the best book I've read in 2010, but now I'm faced with a personal dilemma. How do I describe this book without sounding like a total fan-boy?

Alex Fletcher has gotten into a bit of trouble after his family moved to a new town and finds himself shipped off to a boarding school as punishment for his crimes. There he meets two new friends, Peter and Jeremy, and also the quiet and strange Darren Rust. There's something a little off about Darren. For one, he enjoys cutting up dead things. And he's always sitting at his desk, furiously scribbling in his notebook or disappearing from the dorm room for hours late at night. Although their friendship doesn't happen overnight, Alex and Darren soon share an evening escape from the school grounds that turns out to be the beginning of something that will make an profound impression on both their lives, and on the lives of the people Alex loves - for better or worse.

Strand takes the reader through several different time periods as Alex meets his new friends, loses contact, and is ultimately reacquianted with them. A sense of foreboding runs through the entire book as you watch Alex being put into more and more difficult situations by the obviously unstable Darren. Darren's inability to cope with his friend's reluctance to join him as a "partner in crime" really sits heavy, and totally affects the way you might feel about him as the bad guy. He almost manages to become the most sympathetic character in the novel, making him one of the most impressive villains I've read to date.

Pressure was nominated in 2008 for the Bram Stoker awards in the category of best novel, but was beat by Stephen King's Lisey's Story. I have yet to read King's book, but it really must have been something earth shattering to have beaten this. Jeff Strand has yet to disappoint and I'm anxiously awaiting his future output.


Visit Jeff Strand's website for news on upcoming releases, and to read his painfully hilarious unused Stoker acceptance speeches, along with some hilarious (and fictitious) tales of inappropriate behaviour by Stephen King.


  1. This one is presently in the mail making its way to me. It's been on my wish list for some time and I look forward to tearing into it. I also have Lisey's Story sitting on my to-be-read pile, but it could be a while before I bother with it--you're right that it must be something because I've heard nothing but very loud raves for Pressure.

  2. You should really get yourself geared up for something special here. Pressure is, by far, one of the best books I've read in the last 10 years. Bar none.


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