Gross-out Laughs and Chills: Benjamin’s Parasite by Jeff Strand

Genre books that are laugh-out-loud funny are few and far between.

Well, horror lit to tickle your funny bone has found a new champion with the arrival of Jeff Strand’s new book from Delirium. Benjamin’s Parasite tells the story of a high school English teacher who becomes the unwilling carrier of a top secret experiment: a giant intestinal parasite that spurs-on uncontrollable fits of gluttony, horniness and violence. Oh, and it is slowly transforming its host into a mound of weeping sores.

Aided by an impulsive female bounty hunter, Benjamin must escape bumbling mobsters, bumbling mad scientists, and even bumbling Deliverance-esque hillbillies while racing to have the parasite removed before it kills him.

“Intestinal parasite” and “weeping sores” don’t sound particularly funny, but believe me the novel is. Absurdity is the word of the day where Strand is concerned. He lay’s the funny on thick in the dialogue and makes the action set-pieces big, big, big. The closest parallel to the novel would have to be on the screen (the early work of Peter Jackson, Sam Raimi, maybe even a dash of later-day Troma), not the written word.

It’s hard to imagine this kind of splat-shtick working on the page, but Strand pulls it off beautifully. One of the keys to the book’s success is its steady escalation into absurdist territory. To provide example, but trying not to ruin anything: the final act of the book involves a parachute escape (PARACHUTES!).

A lesser writer really would have struggled with such an oddball premise, but after the first chapter it becomes apparent that Stoker nominee Strand is the real deal. If one could level any criticism at the book there are jokes that go on for maybe a tiny bit too long. Full disclosure: this could be attributed to my own squeamishness about losing teeth (Benjamin has his knocked out, I wont say how, but boy did it seem like it went on forever).

I can’t recommend this book enough. You should pick it up.
I will be definitely keeping my eye out for more Strand, his novel Pressure comes out from Leisure Books this June….I already have mine pre-ordered.

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