Anybody Home

Book Review: Anybody Home? by Michael J. Seidlinger

I’ve always loved reading horror novels. As a kid I loved Christopher Pike and R.L. Stine and when I switched over to adult fare sometime in high school I couldn’t get enough of Stephen King, Clive Barker, and Robert R. McCammon, just to name a few. As a result though, there aren’t very many books that can really scare me anymore. Sure, I’ll still feel that rush of suspense that gets me turning the pages ever faster, curious to know what’s behind the door or around the corner, but it’s not very often that I read something that leaves a lingering sense of fear after I put the book down. The kind that leaves me worried about whether the doors are all locked, or a little afraid of that oddly shaped shadow in the corner. For much of its length, Michael J. Seidlinger’s Anybody Home? made me feel that genuinely afraid again.

Our narrator is remotely guiding us, the readers, as we attempt to undertake our first home invasion. They have already done this at least once before and so know all the little tricks and traps that can make or break our performance. There are cameras already in place, covering every inch of the home we’ve chosen, ready to package the footage and send it out to the “cults” who ravenously consume this sort of content. We’ve recruited some assistants and are about to launch our attack as the novel opens, with everyone referred to only by roles and numbers: Invaders #1-5, Victims #1-4, and The Voice. We have everything planned and ready to go, but of course no amount of planning can prepare for every possible outcome in situations like these, which is where our narrator comes in, helping to guide us through any unexpected developments.

The idea of a home invasion is inherently terrifying, so I was already on edge from the get-go. Being walked through the preparations and the acts themselves in the narrator’s detached and clinical voice only makes it even more chilling. What is done to the family whose home is taken over is very disturbing and not enjoyable to read, yet read it we do, unable to turn away. With everything written in the second person the author is implicating us, the audience, in the role we play promoting this kind of material, much the same way that Michael Haneke’s similarly themed 1997 film Funny Games and its 2007 American remake did. This novel is clearly inspired by those movies and could even function as a sequel in a way.

Things fall apart a little bit at the end, when it begins to become unclear exactly who is where and with whom, though that wraps up fairly quickly leading into a satisfying denouement. There are also more than a few distracting spelling errors. But despite its few flaws, this is possibly the scariest book of the year, and one that readers are unlikely to forget. ★★★★

★★★★★ = Excellent | ★★★★ = Very Good | ★★★ = Good | ★★ = Fair | ★ = Poor

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