Books: Man, Fuck This House by Brian Asman

Although I’m usually a big fan of buying and reading print books (as my groaning, overstuffed shelves can attest), I’m also perpetually broke and unable to spend the amount of money I’d like to on them. While I resisted reading ebooks for a long time, for many still-valid reasons (I already look at a screen all day and don’t necessarily want to do it for leisure, for one thing), I get that ebooks are superior in a lot of ways, mainly that you don’t have to kill any trees and it’s much easier to take your whole library with you when you move. So, because I knew I’d be reading and reviewing a lot of books in the foreseeable future, I sprung for a Kindle Unlimited subscription.

It’s actually been quite a boon, I have to say, particularly because many authors offer their ebooks for free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers. Free horror novels that help me discover new authors to love? Yes, please.

So when this particular free ebook came up in my recommendations, I clicked on it without a moment’s hesitation, and that was almost entirely because the novel is called Man, Fuck This House, which might be the greatest title of a horror novel ever conceived. How can I NOT want to read a book called Man, Fuck This House? Even if it wasn’t any good, I was willing to give it extra points just for the title alone.

Thankfully, it IS good. Author Brian Asman is apparently best known for more “bizarro” fiction, and from what I could glean from other people’s reviews, this book is a slight departure from his usual style. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still weird, but it’s set up like a fairly traditional haunted house tale, albeit with strange twists and turns toward the third act that I in no way saw coming. Because of these twists, I feel as though this is definitely a book that is best gone into knowing as little as possible about it.

The novel came out in October of 2021, and though you would think that with a title like Man, Fuck This House (and yes, I know I’ve repeated the title three times, but that just goes to show how hilarious I think it is), you’d imagine this book would be a wacky horror comedy from start to finish, but it isn’t like that exactly. It is humorous in some ways, but maybe not in the ways you might be expecting. I quite enjoyed the tone of it, but judging from some of the other reviews, it seems as though this very tone was a sticking point with readers; some people either expected it to be funnier and were disappointed when it wasn’t, or thought it was too bizarre and out there to be entertaining. Your mileage may vary, but I thought it struck just the right balance of traditional haunted house tropes mixed with bizarre situations with a large helping of sardonic humor.

At the beginning of the story, we meet the Haskins family: mom Sabrina, dad Hal, and two kids, Michaela and Damien. Hal, who is like the Platonic ideal of a dad—kinda dumpy, sells reverse mortgages, tells dad jokes, constantly makes sports metaphors—has just gotten a promotion, and the family has moved into a lovely Craftsman house in a small town.

Sabrina Haskins is a housewife who seems not necessarily unhappy with her life, but just sort of dissatisfied that she never lived up to her full potential. In the past, she had aspirations of greatness, but over time, somehow ended up with a husband she loves but is not all that excited about, and kids who she also loves, but has a hard time connecting to. It seems as though, at this point in her life, she has realized how her lack of personal agency has caused her to drift along and end up in this humdrum family existence that she doesn’t dislike necessarily, but which isn’t ultimately all that fulfilling. When they move to the new house, she’s hoping that her life will change, that something interesting will happen to her. Well, she definitely gets her wish.

One of the funniest aspects of the book for me was in the character of Damien, who is around eight or nine years old, I think. Even his name was given as a sort of sly joke by Sabrina, who accidentally got pregnant with him and then found that she couldn’t really relate to him, even when he was just a baby. Damien, you see, is a very precocious child, intensely intelligent and somewhat arrogant. Even at his young age, he is very aware of his mother’s ambivalence toward him, and to amuse himself, he deliberately leans hard into the “demon child” angle, playing devious pranks on purpose to freak out his mother. Only his older sister Michaela, who acts as his henchman until his shenanigans go too far, knows that Damien is just a normal—albeit scarily smart—child who wants love from his mother, but because he feels as though he isn’t getting it, decides to inspire disquiet instead. In that way, the character reminded me of a cross between Stewie from Family Guy and Harold from Harold & Maude. Some of the chapters, by the way, are from Damien’s perspective, so the reader gets a funny but also sort of unsettling look into the kid’s head.

Once the odd family dynamic is established, we’re left with Sabrina as she tries to make this house a home. The kids go off to school, Hal goes off to work, and Sabrina—stuck at home until her car is shipped from their former town—starts setting their new residence to rights. Almost as soon as she’s in the house alone, though, something very strange happens. A week or so after the movers have left, Sabrina is unpacking boxes when a strange man walks through the house carrying one of the boxes that was too heavy for Sabrina to lift, and asks her where she wants it.

Obviously, she’s all, “Who the fuck are you?” but also assumes maybe he’s just one of the movers who’s really, really late. She tells him to put the box into the basement and she follows him down there, but after the guy puts the box down, he essentially vanishes into this crawlspace that in no way is large enough for a man to get into. She goes into the crawlspace immediately afterward, but he’s gone.

Weird shit like this continues, and just like in many haunted house stories, Sabrina is the only one alone in the house every day, and thus the only person who notices anything unusual. She begins to think that perhaps she’s losing her mind. One thing that’s interesting about this particular “haunting,” though, and makes it different from most other haunted house stories, is that this force or entity is not necessarily malevolent. Most haunted house stories, of course, start out with phenomena that are sort of creepy but not all that harmful—doors opening and closing, shit like that—and then slowly ramp up into something terrifying and deadly. This haunting, however, seems particularly catered to Sabrina’s needs. Aside from the man carrying the box, other things happen, like Sabrina will think to herself that she’d love a hot bubble bath, and she’ll go upstairs and one will have been run for her. It’s all helpful things that appear to understand what Sabrina wants and needs at any given time.

Of course things don’t stay that way, and as the tale goes on, things go absolutely batshit insane in a way that I was totally surprised and delighted by. This is a short book, but it packs a fun, crazy punch, and I loved every minute of it. As I mentioned, don’t go into it expecting it to be an outright comedy; just keep your mind open and enjoy the bizarro ride.

Until next time, keep it creepy, my friends.

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