Publisher: Word Horde
Paperback: 266 pages
Before I start I need to clarify something: I read the unabridged version. It doesn’t read like one book, it reads like two novellas.
Fisherman on the Banks of the River by Charles-Francois Daubigny
The first and far more captivating of the two stories is about Abe, an old-timer and widower who has taken up fishing as a distraction from his pain. He befriends his coworker Dan, a younger widower who lost his wife and two children in a car crash. They bond over their shared loss and fishing, and spend mornings and weekends together in mutual, comfortable silence casting their lines out into the water. The pair grows closer as they bond over the tragedies that haunt them.
After being separated for some time while fishing is out of season, Dan suggests they open the new fishing season at Dutchman’s Creek. It’s a location Abe has never heard of, despite being quite an accomplished fisherman. The pair of fishing buddies decides to head for the creek, seemingly unaware of the eerie history that surrounds the Creek.
The second story, and where the book falls off in my opinion, is the history of Dutchman’s Creek. This story is about half the length of the entire book, or at least it felt like it. Abe and Dan meet a fry cook on their way to Dutchman’s Creek, who sits them down to tell them all about the strange history of the creek and the haunting occurrences that happened to the people that once lived in the area. The ensuing backstory is full of exposition characters that seem to exist solely to infodump the history of the Creek and the strange entity that resides “on the other side”, Der Fisher.
At its best The Fisherman is as good as any horror I’ve ever read, which should be read as nothing short of high praise for John Langan. At its worst, The Fisherman dwells far too deep on backstory and mythos that don’t matter. Der Fisher was inconsequential to the story. It doesn’t matter to Abe who Der Fisher is, or what he’s doing. Abe cares about his wife, his friend, and fishing.
I also feel like, in pulling back the curtain on the strange happenings of Dutchman’s Creek in the expository novella, that some of the mystery of the Creek was ruined in the story proper. The suspense of the big reveal at Dutchman’s Creek was used early on characters I didn’t care about and that didn’t end up mattering in the end.
All in all, if you like some top-rate horror and don’t mind a big diversion into Lovecraftish backstory right in the middle of the book, then The Fisherman is right up your alley. Or right up your creek? I really failed at my lack of fishing puns in this review.
Langan, and Abe, will have you hook, line, and sinker!
I troutted out an easy pun. Codn’t have done it better if I flied.
Review by Griffin