Review of The Fisherman by John Langan

Review of The Fisherman by John LanganIt’s pretty tough when the last book you read was so good that you find it difficult to pick the next thing you want to read, because everything else seems to pale in comparison. Such was the case after I finished reading the epic horror novel, The Fisherman by John Langan. In short, it’s a bit of a masterpiece.

It took Langan roughly twelve years to finish the book, but the time he spent on it shows, in its detail and its beauty, not to mention the fact that it’s simply a fine story.

It’s about Abe and Dan, two widowers who take up the pastime of fishing to distract them from their recent loss. They eventually come across rumors of a place in upstate New York, near Woodstock, called Dutchman’s Creek. When they stop in at a diner on their way there, the diner’s cook tries to dissuade them from their venture with stories of the creek’s dangerously steep banks and strong current, and of the people who have gone there, never to be seen again.

Then the cook shares with them a tale of the history of the creek, and of the town that used to exist nearby, and of the mysterious Fisherman, and Dutchman’s Creek soon takes on a much more sinister aspect.

What Abe and Dan discover on their fishing trip seems at first to be a dream come true, with all the temptation of a shiny new lure, but they learn to their horror that the beautiful bait hides a sharp, rusty hook—and that the dream come true is in reality a hideous nightmare.

John Langan took home a Stoker Award for this achievement, and deservedly so. I just hope I don’t have to wait over a decade for his next effort.

Agents of Dreamland by Caitlín R. Kiernan

Agents of Dreamland by Caitlín R. KiernanAgents of Dreamland by Caitlín R. Kiernan is an intensely fascinating, dark thrill ride. It’s like Men In Black on steroids, only with a much more pessimistic outlook.

I loved it. Kiernan’s command of the craft is nothing short of amazing. She spins her poetic prose and draws you in until you’re captured by her spell. She’s simply a masterful storyteller.

The book kicks off with a meeting in an out of the way diner in Winslow, Arizona, between the liaisons of two rival government agencies. They’re there because something has gone horribly wrong, something that might mean the end of the world as we know it.

One of these agents is a sort of noir character, a hard-drinking cynic of moral ambiguity, known only as the Signalman. The other is a time-hopping female of vague and suspicious origins, named Immacolata Sexton.

There’s also a third character, a charismatic cult leader who gathers as his flock the dregs of society to help him usher in the “Next Level.” His name is Drew Standish, and he’s one of the reasons for the clandestine meeting.

This story is a wonderful mix of science fiction, cosmic horror, conspiracy theories, and compelling and juicy historical tidbits. At times it’s not an easy read, and I found myself having to look up certain references the author made, but it was well worth the effort and I learned a few new (to me, anyway) fascinating facts that added to my enjoyment of the story.

Bottom line, this is a marvelous book and a must-read for any lover of the fantastic and macabre.

‘Dreaming’ has a shiny new cover

I’ve noticed over the past several months that people assumed I wrote extreme horror. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I don’t. Admittedly, I’m not afraid to dip my toes into the gore now and then, if it serves the story. But story is the key word here and mine are very much character-driven. I’m more interested in writing (and reading) about a character’s reaction to the monster than the monster itself, whether that monster is fresh from the grave or living right next door. Otherwise the tale falls flat for me.

The reason for the confusion about my style became clear when readers began to say that the stories were much deeper and more thought-provoking than they’d previously assumed from the book’s former gory cover.

The saying goes, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” That’s probably true in almost all cases except for books.

Because a book cover is supposed to make a promise, and the old cover was breaking that promise. I should have known better. Anyway, I fixed it.

This cover is light-years better, because it offers a closer glimpse into what the stories inside are all about, and it tells you something of who I am as a writer: a lover of Harlan Ellison, Alfred Hitchcock, and Ray Bradbury; The Twilight Zone, Shirley Jackson, and Richard Matheson. And Robert McCammon. And Joe Lansdale. And so on and so on…