This fine novella from Steve Stred took me little to no time at all to get through. I wasn’t sure what to expect, judging from the creepy-if-you-look-it-in-the-right-kinda-way cover, and the blurb about an imaginary friend. But once I got started I just had to finish. And quickly.
The story follows Scott as he sits in a police interrogation room pleading his innocence following a senseless murder. All evidence points towards him, but he never did it, did he?
The novella jumps between the present day and the story he’s telling the cops. They want to know why he is so sure his imaginary friend is the one behind the murder, and quite a few others. And guess what? They don’t believe him.
Scott is a loner. His father’s gone and his mother would rather down a few beers instead of being there for him. One day he encounters his ‘imaginary friend’, his wagon buddy. But this isn’t the typical kind of made-up pal that you may imagine. No, this dude is a horrific-looking monster with a rotting face and an aura of death.
His buddy is beautifully described. I could almost taste the rotting flesh in the back of my throat and feel the heaves emanating as his appearance was meticulously described. But if you were to imagine a non-existent friend then surely you’d make them a little more aesthetically pleasing. Although, is Scott really imagining this thing?
We follow him through school as he’s picked on, beaten, then beaten some more for good measure. But little do these bullies know that Scott’s wagon buddy will do anything for his pal, and this includes murder, dismemberment, and sometimes a little itty bit of cannibalism. Yeah, don’t mess with Scott, should be the lesson here.
But throughout his life people don’t seem to heed this warning. Once he grows up, Scott is still the target of these evil bastards, but luckily his bud is right there with him.
Of course, the police don’t believe a word but let him continue his tale all the same. Will they ever believe him?
Scott is a great protagonist. Although picked on you never feel like he deserves any of this, and instead of whinging about it he just tries to hold his head up and carry on regardless. Even his alcoholic mom he still kind of gives the benefit of the doubt.
The only gripe I have, although it’s not really a gripe, is that I wanted more. Now this says more about the quality of the story than anything. I’m not one who likes my stories to be nicely wrapped up and explained away, but I really felt like ‘come oooon’ after finishing this. I wanted to know more about the wagon buddy, like where did he come from and why? I really hope that this character is introduced again in another story by Mr Stred, because he was so awesomely presented here. I. Just. Want. More!
Maybe I’m being too critical. If everything had been explained I’d probably be craving for a little to have been left open to interpretation. So I’m going to stop moaning now. What I will mention, though is the gore on offer here. There’s not too many graphic descriptions, but just enough to really have you wincing as the various enemies of Scott are ‘taken care of’.
So all in all this was a highly enjoyable story, and here’s hoping for a sequel!
Categories: book review