If you want a wry, tongue-in-cheek, comic horror book to distract you from the current living dystopian hellscape we’re currently enjoying in reality, then look no further than The Sick Box by Matthew Fries. Absurd, cynical, and a little disgusting, Fries’ novel is strange and amusing, lending itself to a good afternoon spent escaping into a world more absurd than the one we currently populate. Karen is in Hell, having done something to her sister Alice during her life to earn herself eternal damnation. And Hell looks an awful lot like corporate office life, with confusing and interminably dull work, confusing and senseless policies, and bureaucratic quagmires. For most of us (and myself included), Karen’s description of Hell was met with a lot of nods and laughter from my corner.
Karen is slogging away in low-level Hell, when she’s called up to the higher levels (during a zombie attack, one of the hazards of being sent to Hell) because someone on Earth found her sick box – a box of items used for spiritual comfort, in life – and Karen is ushered into a mission in which she has to possess a little girl, manage to get to adulthood, marry another possessed person (who’s already there), and further Satan’s plan to dominate the world, no pressure. Karen embarks on the journey with gusto – she quite likes Rebecca, the little girl she’s been assigned to possess, and possessing someone is a delicate thing to do, as too much exposure to a demon can go horribly wrong like she could be found out and exorcised.
This was a fun, if disturbing and a little gross, read. Fries doesn’t take his story too seriously, and it was refreshing to read something that was meant to be twisted and amusing. It is fairly graphic in depictions of vomit, wounds, and other things, so if you’re on board for that, be clear that they are part of this irreverent and wry novel. I laughed, I gagged a bit, and I cringed throughout, but at the end, I had a decent time reading this, and it was so weird that I definitely was able to escape for a few hours. This is one of those “just trust me” recommendations.
Matthew Fries was born in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, but as an adult he stole away to Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. A graduate of the creative writing program at York University, he is the white guy in an interracial marriage, a child of the 80s, and the proud father of a mixed chick. When he isn’t working at the Institute for Quantum Computing, at the University of Waterloo, he enjoys spending time with his cats, collecting obscure psychedelic-rock LPs, and playing pinball. Matthew’s work has been published in various magazines across Canada, including, The Windsor Review, Mystery Weekly, and some others.
- Publisher : Independently published (Dec 31 2021)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 348 pages
- ISBN-13 : 979-8793854405
Alison Manley bounced around the Maritimes before landing in Miramichi, NB, where she works as a hospital librarian. She has an honours BA in political science and English from St. Francis Xavier University, and a Master of Library and Information Studies from Dalhousie University. When she's not reading biomedical research for her work, she likes reading poetry, contemporary and historical fiction, and personal essays. Noted for a love of bright colours (and lipstick), you can find her wandering the banks of the Miramichi River with a book and a paintbrush.