Doggem [Dead Box Archives #1] – John F. Leonard
Reviewed by Steve Stred
“Sentience? I’m just a throwaway toy, an inanimate object. How can I have thought and emotion? Opinion and experience? I’d shrug my shoulders if I could. The world is brimful of mystery.”
I previously read Mr. Leonard’s fun horror short Call Drops and thoroughly enjoyed it. I have seen John teasing this story on twitter and was looking forward to its release.
Now after reading it, all I can say is WOW!
Doggem is a stuffed toy that resides at a local elementary school. Our furry friend is a school project that gets to go home with a student for a short amount of time. The student gets to care for Doggem and gets to write diary entries for Doggem telling about each of his days.
While the idea is cute, it’s also a way for teachers to get a bit of an insight into how the student’s home life is. Do the parents participate? What condition does Doggem come back in? Doggem spends a moment describing just how awful life can be behind closed doors.
Now you wouldn’t be wrong to think this is a fantasy tale about a stuffed toy. Doggem though, is so much more.
We follow a boy as he goes on holidays to his grandma’s cottage, way off in the countryside. He is told that he isn’t allowed to play in the woods alone. His grandma is mysterious but the boy doesn’t mind, she takes an interest in him and in Doggem.
What John has created here, in a short novella will fill your heart with joy and sorrow in equal parts. He creates such a lush landscape in such few pages that by the end you will be surprised it wasn’t 800 pages long, and I mean that in the best way possible. This is a fairy-tale with unbridled darkness. This is a fairy-tale filled with moments of childhood sweetness and simple love. The love a stuffed toy that has come alive has for a small boy who treats him with kindness and care.
This was such an unexpected delight and I can’t wait for the literary world to read this.
Part “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” part fairy-tale, but in the end one of the finest pieces of fiction I have read in some time.
Star Rating (out of 5): 5*
All the kids adore Doggem, the class cuddly toy.
They each get to take him home. Hug him and love him and show him their world outside of school.
All they have to do in return is write his diary.
It’s George Gould’s turn and he’s going to introduce Doggem to a rather unusual family.
Before we go any further, it’s worth pointing out that both the stuffed toy and little boy are far from ordinary.
Doggem is no longer your run-of-the-mill snuggle doggy. Designed to fall apart after a few years. Perfect for squishing and squashing into a comfort blanket.
He’s a million miles from that now. Doggem has just become a living creature. Thinking and reasoning. Trying to make sense of an unexpected existence.
Strange places and scary experiences are in store during this sojourn with his latest custodian. Things no respectable fluffy dog should ever have to witness. It might end up in deadly territory.
Make no mistake, there is magic here. Some of it as black as a starless night.
Well, George is descended from decidedly dicey stock. There are folk in delightful George’s lineage who have indulged in practices of a somewhat shadowy nature. The ramifications of which aren’t ready to be consigned to history. They want to spill out of the past and have their say in the future.
Steve has a new book out will ALL PROCEEDs going to charity!
Steve Stred is an up-an-coming Dark Horror author. Steve is the author of the novel Invisible, the novellas Wagon Buddy, Yuri and Jane: the 816 Chronicles and two collections of short stories; Frostbitten: 12 Hymns of Misery and Left Hand Path: 13 More Tales of Black Magick.
Steve also has a number of works on the go and enjoys all things horror, occult, supernatural and paranormal.
Steve Stred is based in Edmonton, AB, Canada and lives with his wife, his son and their dog Oj.
You can follow Steve on Twitter @stevestred
You can visit Steve’s Official Website here