Anybody Home? A Novel by Michael J. Seidlinger

Anybody Home? A Novel
by Michael J. Seidlinger

This novel is creepy AF. I really hope none of the home invaders in this story exist, but that’s the thing that makes this so terrifying: they probably do. Seidlinger’s Anybody Home? has no named narrator, no named characters at all, no named locale, and no loci in time; the events in this slim, punchy novel could happen anywhere and to anyone. That’s what makes it a successful horror story. Seidlinger lets the reader’s imagination do the work — some of the work — for him.

Some. The heavy lifting is done by Seidlinger. The prose is sparse, but accurate like a puncture to the jugular. A hanging question, a sentence left unfinished — the words in this novel function like a silent slice of a knife through air; they draw a spurt or an arc of blood, as desired. Seidlinger delivers enough to elicit pain, but not enough to kill; reader, you’ll live to read on. You’ll be compelled to read on to deliver yourself from the suspense.

Anybody Home? is about a home invasion, a carefully planned crime and its implementation. The story is told from the interior perspective of the mastermind of this crime.

Despite the facelessness of the narrator, the protagonist in this tale is not a mystery to the reader. This is, I think, part of Seidlinger’s brilliance. The reader is treated to the full landscape of insanity in the narrator’s head; what you’re not sure of is who they are talking to and what the relationship is between the narrator and the others of their kind. This unreliable narrator adds to the sensation of dis-ease; the further the reader gets into the book and into the narrator’s head, the more infectious the madness becomes. Things start to make sense. You can’t help but respect the madness a bit. In fact, it does not feel quite so mad. There’s a logic — even a sense of justice or nobility — to the plan the narrator has in mind. Almost.

Reader, you might begin to wonder if the madman is the hero here. But that feels squeamish; you can’t quite reconcile the deontological unfairness of this cruel act with some kind of enlightenment. You can’t quite call the ending “happy”, but you might be tempted to ponder on it. You might creep yourself out a bit when you realize your own moral compass may not point true north… Maybe.

I am adding this to my Halloween Horror reads for 2022. It warrants a place of pride on my list. For those of you following my reviews, I’m starting my Halloween Horror reading early this year (because why not?).

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