Book review: The Fisherman by John Langan

Synopsis

In upstate New York, in the woods around Woodstock, Dutchman’s Creek flows out of the Ashokan Reservoir. Steep-banked, fast-moving, it offers the promise of fine fishing, and of something more, a possibility too fantastic to be true. When Abe and Dan, two widowers who have found solace in each other’s company and a shared passion for fishing, hear rumors of the Creek, and what might be found there, the remedy to both their losses, they dismiss it as just another fish story. Soon, though, the men find themselves drawn into a tale as deep and old as the Reservoir. It’s a tale of dark pacts, of long-buried secrets, and of a mysterious figure known as Der Fisher: the Fisherman. It will bring Abe and Dan face to face with all that they have lost, and with the price they must pay to regain it.

Review

I really feel like I stick out like a sore thumb reviewing this book because plenty of friends have really enjoyed this one, but for me personally, it didn’t blow me away as much as I’d hoped.

We start this book looking into the spiral of grief Abe and his friend Dan find themselves in after losing their wives (and children, in Dan’s case) and I really enjoyed the emotional depth this part of the book portrayed. It felt so real and was easy to put yourself in their shoes, feel the emotional turmoil they were each separately going through.

Once we’ve moved on to the fishing part of the novel, the story of Abe and Dan halts completely and we’re whisked into an entirely new story surrounding a creek Dan wishes to go and fish in, where we hear the tale of The Fisherman. Here is where the novel started having issues for me. 

I absolutely love an urban legend tales and I was so excited at the start of reading this other story that brought with it a folklore, mystery element. However, this story takes up almost the entire book, soon I had forgotten this was originally Abe and Dan’s story. If the whole book had been this menacing tale of The Fisherman, my rating would have been much different because this story was absolutely superb! It was filled with terrifying, often grotesque imagery, and told a brilliant story of friends coming together to battle evil.

Eventually we’re thrown out of this secondary tale and are back with Abe and Dan, but, by this point, I could barely remember who they were, what their struggles were, and why I was supposed to care about them. For me, this made the book feel like two separate short stories mashed clumsily together to make the semblance of a full novel.

At this point I’d lost most of my interest and the ending felt long and drawn out, if not totally predictable. Predictability is not always an issue in stories, you can still make good of an obvious situation, but I didn’t find myself connecting with it here.

On a more positive note, the writing in this one is simply exquisite. It’s visceral and gruesome and beautiful. Despite not always enjoying the story, it was still a pleasure to read for it’s beautiful prose. And in the parts where I did love the story, the writing elevated it completely.

Maybe it’s because I’ve never experienced grief from significance loss, or maybe it’s because creature horror is possibly my least favourite sub-genre, but I’ve finished this one feeling disappointed as I had extremely high hopes off the back of many friends’ recommendations. Not all books can be for all people! What I have taken away from this is that I loved Langan’s writing style and I have already added another of his books to my TBR.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐


Book Details:

Pages: 266
Edition Published:
2016, Worde Horde
Genre: Horror, Fiction, Fantasy
Goodreads Av. Rating: 3.97

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