“The Ballad of Black Tom” Victor LaValle – book review

While discussing the best horror books to read this Halloween, one of the WeirdLit group members, recommended me to give The Ballad of Black Tom a shot, and so I did. Is Victor LaValle’s weird fiction short novel as good as people say? Let’s find out.

"The Ballad of Black Tom" Victor LaValle - book review

For H.P. Lovecraft, with all my confused feelings.

Let’s start with saying a few words about the author himself. Victor LaValle, raised in Queens, New York, has been the recipient of multiple awards such as Shirley Jackson Award, American Book Award, or a Whiting Writers’ Award. In The Ballad of Black Tom, the writer decided to re-imagine events we know from H.P. Lovecraft’s short story The Horror at Red Hook. If you have read it, you probably know that while it’s not the best work by the writer from Providence, it’s definitely one of his most racist ones. Victor Lavalle presents us a similar story, but from a black perspective, and he does it well. 

In The Ballad of Black Tom, we can see the New York of 1920s with all its poverty and brutality. The story is divided into two parts; the first one focuses on Tommy Tester, a black man trying to get by and provide for his father and himself. One day he is hired to obtain an ominously looking yellow book, supposedly containing the key to the so-called Supreme Alphabet. The tome immediately brings up to mind the famous novel The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers. Also, Tommy’s employer, Ma Att would no doubt feel like home in some weird nightmare. This first contact with the unknown sets the whole story in motion. How will it end for Tommy? You will have to find out by yourselves. 

Insensitive minds always dispel true knowledge.

The second part of The Ballad of Black Tom focalizes detective Malone, the protagonist of Lovecraft’s The Horror at Red Hook. We quickly realize that he possesses more obscure knowledge than one would expect. While investigating the case connected to Tommy Tester, he stumbles upon a mysterious older man, also included in The Horror at Red Hook – Robert Suydam. 

I’ll take Cthulhu over you devils any day.

The fact that unholy creatures resting at the bottom of the oceans might be dangerous, while unsettling, is not exactly surprising. That’s precisely what would we expect of them. The situation is different when it comes to other people, though. In The Ballad of Black Tom they are the real monsters. After finishing the book, I was under an impression similar to the one I got after watching Joker with amazing Joaquin Phoenix playing the leading role – this catastrophe could be so easily averted. Victor LaValle’s protagonist didn’t become Black Tom overnight. It was a long process, involving a lot of ruthlessness, cruelty, and apathy from other people. 

Nobody ever thinks of himself as a villain, does he? Even monsters hold high opinions on themselves.

Summing up:

While The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle is no doubt an entertaining read, it’s also much more than just another story from the universe of Cthulhu Mythos. The author took on a hazardous mission of re-imagining The Horror at Red Hook, and the result is great. If you are looking for an interesting horror to read this Halloween – I think that you won’t be disappointed with this one. 

Grade: 7.5/10

amzn_assoc_tracking_id = “weirdpond-20”; amzn_assoc_ad_mode = “manual”; amzn_assoc_ad_type = “smart”; amzn_assoc_marketplace = “amazon”; amzn_assoc_region = “US”; amzn_assoc_design = “enhanced_links”; amzn_assoc_asins = “B0166PX1Z8”; amzn_assoc_placement = “adunit”; amzn_assoc_linkid = “3df3b9d7a66c8e53dd2974ee50428f0b”; //z-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/onejs?MarketPlace=US

“Agents of Dreamland” Caitlin R. Kiernan – book review

Recently I have read two excellent short story collections – The Secret of Ventriloquism by Jon Padgett and Teatro Grottesco by Thomas Ligotti, which I can honestly recommend to any weird fiction fan. This time I decided to read Caitlin R. Kiernan’s Agents of Dreamland, a novelette which won the Bram Stoker Award in 2017. Why is it worth reading? Let’s find out. 

"Agents of Dreamland" Caitlin R. Kiernan - Weird Pond Review

Eventually you’ve got to understand that an answer isn’t the same thing as a solution, and a story is sometimes only an excuse. Nic Pizzolatto

Lovecraftian horror at its best

The action of Agents of Dreamland begins when a government agent called The Signalman is waiting in a typical American diner for a meeting with Immacolata Sexton, who represents another agency. They want to discuss the case of Drew Standish – leader of a bizarre cult. As it turns out, the whole situation is somehow connected with the New Horizons space probe, forgotten movie by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and even monsters from the pages of H.P. Lovecraft’s books.

“Only our minds,” says the alchemist, “need to leave this sphere and make the long, cold journey through the dark. These bodies we wear are no more, my love, than tattered garments we’ve outgrown. In this new world we’ll have new forms, new bodies.

Caitlin R. Kiernan’s novel Agents of Dreamland is full of references to short stories written by the master of horror from Providence. The cult leader uses a mysterious Black Book, Fungi from Yuggoth play a significant role throughout the whole book, and the shrine of Nyarlathotep and Azathoth turns out to be a shelter for refugees trying to survive in a city full of monsters straight out of nightmare. 

Behold the black rivers of pitch that flow under those mysterious cyclopean bridges.

The similarities do not end here. Caitlin R. Kiernan also managed to convey the overwhelming atmosphere of hopelessness which H.P. Lovecraft’s stories are famous for. The protagonists of Agents of Dreamland are confronted with unknown forces, against whom they just don’t stand a chance. I believe that the unsettling, dark atmosphere accompanying the reader from the very beginning until the last page of the novel is its most significant advantage.

The X-Files in the world of Cthulhu Mythos

… some stains sink straight through to the souls and are never coming out. 

Have you read the great short story by Neil Gaiman – A Study in Emerald? The author placed the famous detective known from Arthur Conan Doyle’s book – Sherlock Holmes, in the universe created by H.P. Lovecraft. The result, as you may have seen, was fantastic. The situation is similar when it comes to Agents of Dreamland – Caitlin R. Kiernan utilized the world of Cthulhu Mythos and enriched it with government intrigues and intelligence agencies continually trying to maintain people in blissful ignorance. Sounds like a script for a perfect The X-Files episode, right? Let’s also add some elements straight out from David Lynch’s movies, and the result will be terrific.

Caitlin R. Kiernan slowly and skillfully reveals us further information concerning The Signalman, Immacolata, and the mysterious cult led by Drew Standish. With each new clue, we discover more and more dark secrets hidden in Agents of Dreamland plot, leading us to a terrifying finale. The author’s beautiful style, which significantly intensifies the feeling of anxiety accompanying us while reading, is just cherry the cherry on top. For instance, the unsettling image of fallen City, where mutated people and animals fight for survival, made a huge impression on me. I would definitely like to read a full-fledged novel or a collection of stories set in the universe created by Caitlin R. Kiernan. I am not even mentioning a TV series based on Agents of Dreamland, which for me, would be a dream come true.  

Summing up:

Agents of Dreamland gave me exactly what I expected from it – great entertainment mixed with the kind of anxiety, you can get only from good weird fiction works. If you have ever wondered how would a crossover between The X-Files and Lovecraft’s short stories look like – Caitlin R. Kiernan’s book, in my opinion, is as good an answer as you can get. Agents of Dreamland will undoubtedly join our list of interesting horror books which you should read. Highly recommended.  

Grade: 7.5/10

amzn_assoc_tracking_id = “weirdpond-20”; amzn_assoc_ad_mode = “manual”; amzn_assoc_ad_type = “smart”; amzn_assoc_marketplace = “amazon”; amzn_assoc_region = “US”; amzn_assoc_design = “enhanced_links”; amzn_assoc_asins = “B01JZ6SIVC”; amzn_assoc_placement = “adunit”; amzn_assoc_linkid = “7aaa84c19d0bd67b84c1756b591454a7”; //z-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/onejs?MarketPlace=US

“Agents of Dreamland” Caitlin R. Kiernan

Recently I have read two excellent short story collections – The Secret of Ventriloquism by Jon Padgett and Teatro Grottesco by Thomas Ligotti, which I can honestly recommend to any weird fiction fan. This time I decided to read Caitlin R. Kiernan’s Agents of Dreamland, a novelette which won the Bram Stoker Award in 2017. Why is it worth reading? Let’s find out. 

"Agents of Dreamland" Caitlin R. Kiernan - Weird Pond Review

Eventually you’ve got to understand that an answer isn’t the same thing as a solution, and a story is sometimes only an excuse. Nic Pizzolatto

Lovecraftian horror at its best

The action of Agents of Dreamland begins when a government agent called The Signalman is waiting in a typical American diner for a meeting with Immacolata Sexton, who represents another agency. They want to discuss the case of Drew Standish – leader of a bizarre cult. As it turns out, the whole situation is somehow connected with the New Horizons space probe, forgotten movie by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and even monsters from the pages of H.P. Lovecraft’s books.

“Only our minds,” says the alchemist, “need to leave this sphere and make the long, cold journey through the dark. These bodies we wear are no more, my love, than tattered garments we’ve outgrown. In this new world we’ll have new forms, new bodies.

Caitlin R. Kiernan’s novel Agents of Dreamland is full of references to short stories written by the master of horror from Providence. The cult leader uses a mysterious Black Book, Fungi from Yuggoth play a significant role throughout the whole book, and the shrine of Nyarlathotep and Azathoth turns out to be a shelter for refugees trying to survive in a city full of monsters straight out of nightmare. 

Behold the black rivers of pitch that flow under those mysterious cyclopean bridges.

The similarities do not end here. Caitlin R. Kiernan also managed to convey the overwhelming atmosphere of hopelessness which H.P. Lovecraft’s stories are famous for. The protagonists of Agents of Dreamland are confronted with unknown forces, against whom they just don’t stand a chance. I believe that the unsettling, dark atmosphere accompanying the reader from the very beginning until the last page of the novel is its most significant advantage.

The X-Files in the world of Cthulhu Mythos

… some stains sink straight through to the souls and are never coming out. 

Have you read the great short story by Neil Gaiman – A Study in Emerald? The author placed the famous detective known from Arthur Conan Doyle’s book – Sherlock Holmes, in the universe created by H.P. Lovecraft. The result, as you may have seen, was fantastic. The situation is similar when it comes to Agents of Dreamland – Caitlin R. Kiernan utilized the world of Cthulhu Mythos and enriched it with government intrigues and intelligence agencies continually trying to maintain people in blissful ignorance. Sounds like a script for a perfect The X-Files episode, right? Let’s also add some elements straight out from David Lynch’s movies, and the result will be terrific.

Caitlin R. Kiernan slowly and skillfully reveals us further information concerning The Signalman, Immacolata, and the mysterious cult led by Drew Standish. With each new clue, we discover more and more dark secrets hidden in Agents of Dreamland plot, leading us to a terrifying finale. The author’s beautiful style, which significantly intensifies the feeling of anxiety accompanying us while reading, is just cherry the cherry on top. For instance, the unsettling image of fallen City, where mutated people and animals fight for survival, made a huge impression on me. I would definitely like to read a full-fledged novel or a collection of stories set in the universe created by Caitlin R. Kiernan. I am not even mentioning a TV series based on Agents of Dreamland, which for me, would be a dream come true.  

Summing up:

Agents of Dreamland gave me exactly what I expected from it – great entertainment mixed with the kind of anxiety, you can get only from good weird fiction works. If you have ever wondered how would a crossover between The X-Files and Lovecraft’s short stories look like – Caitlin R. Kiernan’s book, in my opinion, is as good an answer as you can get. Agents of Dreamland will undoubtedly join our list of interesting horror books which you should read. Highly recommended.  

Grade: 7.5/10

 

You can buy the book here:

Best short stories by H.P. Lovecraft

Recently I have written about great weird fiction short stories by Thomas Ligotti, whereas this time I take a closer look at another classic of this genre – H.P. Lovecraft himself. It won’t be a book review, though, but a ranking of my favorite works created by this author. How would your list look like? Please let me know in the comments. Enjoy.

Best short stories by H.P. Lovecraft - Weird Pond

15. At the Mountains of Madness

A group of scientists entrapped in the frozen Antarctic world, which hides a terrible mystery deep beneath the ice – it sounds a bit like the excellent movie by John Carpenter The Thing, doesn’t it? Well, I think that the atmosphere of the story is pretty similar, but the sheer scale of the presented history is far greater in Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness. The fact that the list starts with such an excellent text is fitting testament to the greatness of this author.

14. The Doom that Came to Sarnath

This story shows a different aspect of Lovecraft’s works – a more fantastic one. The description of the magnificent Sarnath located on the ruins of gray city Ib is particularly impressive here and will stay with you long after finishing the read. If you want to see another face of the writer from Providence, you shouldn’t miss on this short story. 

13. The Thing on the Doorstep

An exciting short story full of references to, for example, Shadow over Innsmouth (which is also going to appear on the list). The disturbing atmosphere and suggestive descriptions make the reader feel uncomfortable from the very beginning of the text. 

12. The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath

Similarly to The Doom that Came to Sarnath this story also shows us more fantastic Lovecraft. Randolph Carter’s journey through the Dreamlands is an unforgettable experience for any weird fiction fan. 

11. The Rats in the Walls

The nightmares presented in this story are true masterpieces of horror literature, and there is a chance that they will stay in your memory for good. Its plot is intriguing, and the surprising ending surely will give you goosebumps. In my opinion, The Rats in the Walls is undoubtedly one of the best Lovecraft’s works. 

10. The Case of Charles Dexter Ward

One of the best known short stories, written by Lovecraft. We get necromancers, possessions, dreadful experiments, and an excellent, climactic confrontation at the end of the text. While some people say that there are a few dull and too long fragments in The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, I still think that it’s an excellent horror story, definitely worth the time invested in it. 

9. The Outsider

I have to admit that for some time I considered placing The Outsider a little higher, because it’s one of the unique stories written by H.P. Lovecraft. In this case, we no longer look at the world through the eyes of some scholar, who discovers a terrible secret, which starts slowly driving him mad. Instead, we have an opportunity to get to know the story from the monster’s perspective. One of my personal favorites.

8. The Haunter of the Dark

A young painter, during exploration of some abandoned church, which used to be a home for sect conducting ungodly rituals, gets tangled up in a terrifying story. The Haunter of the Dark is a true masterpiece when it comes to disturbing atmosphere and keeping the reader on the edge of the seat. 

7. The Whisperer in Darkness

After a massive flood somewhere around Vermont, the river begins to wash out bizarre creatures, which don’t resemble anything know to humans. One of the professors from Miskatonic University, at first very skeptical, begins to correspond with Henry Akeley – another researcher who experiences some disturbing events on his skin. I think that it’s worth to mention that one of the inspirations for The Whisperer in Darkness was the discovery of Pluto, which Lovecraft associated with Yuggoth – a planet inhabited by mysterious beings. 

6. The Shadow Out of Time

In The Shadow Out of Time H.P. Lovecraft allows us to get to know a big part of his universe’s lore – the history of the Great Race of Yith. One of the themes often appearing in the writer’s texts – the shallowness and pointlessness of the human race in the face of great powers lurking somewhere in space – is even more overwhelming than usual. 

5. The Dreams in the Witch House

The main character, Walter Gillman, decides to rent an attic room which previously was inhabited by a witch, who mysteriously disappeared from Salem jail in 1692. He soon discovers that many of people he moved into the apartment before him, died in strange circumstances. 

The vision of demonic Brown Jenkin, witch’s companion is haunting, and the same goes to Gillman’s nightmares. The way in which Lovecraft builds tension up to the terrifying finale is just breathtaking. The Dreams in the Witch House is definitely one of my favorite horror short stories.

4. The Shadow Over Innsmouth

A story that later inspired, for example, creation of great horror video game Call of Cthulhu – Dark Corners of the World is, no doubt, a true horror literature icon.

Robert Olmstead tells us a story, when he accidentally found himself in the infamous city of Innsmouth. The suggestive descriptions of ghostly, crumbling town inhabited by fallen creatures who once were humans, is a disturbing experience you won’t forget.

3. The Call of Cthulhu

The Call of Cthulhu is a collection of notes written by the narrator – Francis Wayland, who is trying to unravel the mystery behind some alarming events. The scale of the history is enormous – the story takes us on a trip around the world, we visit the United States, China, New Zealand, and even Antarctica, while the Cthulhu cult threatens whole humanity. In my opinion, The Call of Cthulhu is a great pick to start one’s adventure with H.P. Lovecraft’s stories.

2. The Dunwich Horror

The story takes place in a ghastly, ruined town of Dunwich, haunted by ungodly creatures out of this world. Abominable rituals, forbidden books, and overwhelming dark atmosphere – that’s a very good description for this story. If you liked this one, I think that you might also want to take a look at the card game The Dunwich Legacy.

1. The Colour Out of Space

After the fall of a meteor, people and animals inhabiting the nearby area start to descend into madness, while at night, strange otherworldly lights come out of a particular well. The dark climate of the story, its suffocating atmosphere of dread and terror and the feeling of helplessness that accompanies us from the very beginning of the story is simply unique. If I had to choose one story which might encourage people to read H.P. Lovecraft’s stories, I would pick The Colour out of Space

So, that’s it – my favorite short stories written by H.P. Lovecraft. How would your list look like? Which horror story written by this author is your favorite? Please let me know in the comments.

If you would like to start your adventure with H.P. Lovecraft’s short stories, we recommend buying, for example, this collection:

Interesting horror books which you should read

Recently I’ve written about a few outstanding weird fiction novels, such as John Langan’s The Fisherman and Peace by Gene Wolfe. After this, one of the readers asked me to prepare a list of interesting horror books in general. So here we are. I’m sure that the list will lack some novels that are worth reading, so if you come up with some good positions, please let me know in the comments section. Enjoy.

PS. The books are ordered randomly; it’s not a ranking.

1. The Exorcist – William Peter Blatty

In 1973, William Peter Blatty received an Oscar for the screenplay used in the film The Exorcist and thus revolutionized, to some extent, the image of horror in pop culture, at the time bombarded with occult pulp stories. Why is the book also considered to be a classic of the genre? Well, The Exorcist is a terrifying story showing us not only how fragile and sensitive beings we are, but also that we are capable of inhuman cruelty. Timeless classic.

You can buy the book here

2. Teatro Grottesco – Thomas Ligotti

Weird fiction stories by Thomas Ligotti are perfect examples showing, that horror, often associated with light entertainment, can be ambitious literature. In my opinion, Teatro Grottesco is a masterpiece that I can honestly recommend to any book lover, who is ready to plunge into a disturbing, surreal world of nightmares created by the author.

Yoy can buy the book here

3. The Secret of Ventriloquism – Jon Padgett

The Secret of Ventriloquism is a real gem of weird fiction genre. The constant feeling of anxiety accompanying the reader throughout the whole book and unique description of the fallen Dunnstown will surely stay in the readers” memory long after putting the short story collection back on the shelf. I must admit that Jon Padgett joined my favorite weird fiction authors, and I’m looking forward to read his next works. Great read.

You can buy the book here

4. Agents of Dreamland – Caitlin R. Kiernan

Agents of Dreamland gave me exactly what I expected from it – great entertainment mixed with the kind of anxiety, you can get only from good weird fiction works. If you have ever wondered how would a crossover between The X-Files and Lovecraft’s short stories look like – Caitlin R. Kiernan’s book, in my opinion, is as good an answer as you can get. 

You can buy the book here

5. Ghost Story – Peter Straub

Peter Straub’s novel is undoubtedly a real gem when it comes to horror literature. The multifaceted, complexed story forces its readers to actually think through the presented events and look for intertextual references hidden in Ghost Story. The atmosphere created by Straub is definitely unique and if you are a patient reader willing to dedicate some time to really appreciate the author’s masterpiece – don’t hesitate and just read it.

You can buy the book here

6. The Great God Pan and Other Horror Stories – Arthur Machen

Another great weird fiction short story collection. Some of Machen’s masterpieces such as The Great God Pan or The White People inspired many other authors, among others, H.P. Lovecraft. A must-have for every weird fiction fan wanting to get to know the beginnings of our favorite genre.

You can buy the book here

7. The Motion Demon – Stefan Grabiński

Stefan Grabiński, often called Polish Lovecraft, wrote many interesting, weird fiction short stories, such as The Motion Demon or White Wyrak. His works usually confronted people working as railwaymen or firefighters with otherworldly powers lurking under the veil of reality as we know it. If you liked short stories by M.R. James or Algernon Blackwood, you will also not be disappointed with Grabiński.

You can buy the book here

8. The Fisherman – John Langan

The Fisherman is one of the best weird fiction novels I have ever read. The wonderful, fluid narrative, surreal visions, and disturbing atmosphere make reading John Langan’s book pure pleasure. A real treat for the fans of horror literature.

You can buy the book here

9. Dracula – Bram Stoker

Bram Stoker’s novel is certainly an impressive record of changes happening in the 19th century, as well as a source of pop culture references. If you are one of those lucky people who still haven’t read Dracula, I strongly encourage you to do it. A true horror classic.

You can buy the book here

10. The Terror – Dan Simmons

It’s almost impossible to find a better novel to read during a long winter evening. The author really makes us feel the cold constantly harassing the participants of the Franklin’s Expedition. If you like Lovecraft’s story In the Mountains of Madness or John Carpenter’s excellent movie The Thing, there is a high chance that The Terror will join your favorites.

You can buy the book here

11. Ancient Sorceries and Other Weird Stories – Algernon Blackwood

H.P. Lovecraft called Blackwood’s The Willows the best weird fiction story ever, and while I would put some other texts in front of this one, it’s undoubtedly true that we are dealing with a masterpiece of horror. The author makes us wonder how mysterious and powerful nature really, by often confronting his protagonists with the unknown. The Wendigo, Sand, and other stories included in this collection are all worth reading.

You can buy the book here

12. House of Leaves – Mark Z. Danielewski

Danielewski’s novel is, in fact, a literary experiment that is often included in texts concerning the best and most disturbing horror books. Peculiar construction, frequent narrator changes, references to non-existent books, and many others make reading House of Leaves a real challenge. Actually the plot in itself is one big puzzle. If you are looking for a demanding horror novel, I think that you should give this one a shot.

You can buy the book here

13. Peace – Gene Wolfe

Peace is a unique novel, requiring its reader to devote enough time and energy needed to discover the truth hiding behind Weer’s story. If you are looking for an ambitious ghost story that will make you feel uncomfortable and stay in your memory long after finishing it – don’t hesitate and plunge into the weird world of Alder Weer’s memories.

You can buy the book here

14. The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch – Philip K. Dick

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch is without a doubt one of the best weird sci-fi novels ever written. By sending us into a world harrassed by Palmer Eldritch’s disturbing visions, Philip K. Dick makes us question the reality as we know it and ask ourselves a lot of questions regarding faith, God and possible first contact with other civilization. If you are looking for a good, ambitious novel – this one shouldn’t disappoint you.

You can buy the book here

15. The Complete Fiction of H.P. Lovecraft

Any list concerning best horrors, of course, could not be missing stories by H.P. Lovecraft. In most of his works you can see the author sublime, beautiful writing style and his infatuation with 18th-century. Another characteristic of Lovecraft’s work is his fear of human nature and the vastness of the universe. Apart from some exceptions, protagonists here are usually enlightened people such as antiquarians or scientists, who are confronted with some otherworldly power.

You can buy the book here

16. The Ghost Stories of M.R. James

Works written by M.R. James are true classics of horror literature. The author always carefully reveals exactly enough to interest the reader, but at the same time, hides some part of the story to stimulate his imagination. The descriptions are suggestive and detailed – I guarantee that some of them will come back long after finishing the book to haunt you in your nightmares.

You can buy the book here

17. Best Ghost Stories of J.S. Le Fanu

Another classic of horror literature. Some of his works even became a part of pop culture as we know it – for example, vampire Carmilla. Definitely worth taking a closer look at.

You can buy the book here

18. The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane – Robert E. Howard

Many Robert E. Howard’s works can be regarded as horror literature, and I think that those dedicated to Solomon Kane are the best in this aspect. His stories are dynamic, full of twists and turns, exciting fights, and blood-chilling moments. If you are looking for an entertaining horror – give Solomon Kane a chance.

You can buy the book here

19. Looking for Jake and Other Stories – China Mieville

Mieville’s short story collection included really good examples of weird fiction, gore, ghost story, and even Lovecraftian horror. In my opinion, Looking for Jake is a great start for every reader who would like to start his adventure with books written by this author.

You can buy the book here

20. Blindsight – Peter Watts

While usually associated with hard sci-fi, Blindsight is also an excellent sci-fi horror. The story presented by Peter Watts will stay with you for a long time putting the book back on the shelf. One of my favorites.

You can buy the book here

21. Red Snow – Ian MacLeod

Red Snow is a melancholic, atmospheric novel, concerning topics such as the fall of ideals, human cruelty and loneliness. Although the ending of the book was kind of disappointment for me, I think that MacLeod’s book is worth the effort.

You can buy the book here

22. In Heaven Everything is Fine: Fiction Inspired by David Lynch

In Heaven Everything is Fine is a very solid collection of short stories, including such gems like Teatro Grottesco by Thomas Ligotti, Hadley by Ben Loory or Finding yourself as someone else by Matthew Revert. All works are somehow corresponding with the works of David Lynch – if you are a fan, it should be a real treat.

You can buy the book here

23. The King in Yellow – Robert W. Chambers

This legendary collection of stories has recently gained in popularity thanks to the excellent TV series True Detective, where we can find many references to Chambers’ book. The unique, mysterious atmosphere and feeling of anxiety makes The King in Yellow an instant classic.

You can buy the book here

24. The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson

The novel started to become popular again thanks to the tv series loosely based on The Haunting of the Hill House, which some time ago appeared on Netflix. Three extremely different people enter the aforementioned haunted house – how will it end? Like many other books on the list, this one is also widely considered to be a weird fiction masterpiece.

You can buy the book here

25. Salem’s Lot – Stephen King

When it comes to horror literature, I, of course, had to mention at least one book by Stephen King. While I like a lot of his stories, Salem’s Lot is my favorite one. The novel is full of pop-cultural references and scenes which will be remembered long after Stephen King finishes his career.

You can buy the book here

26. The Dark Eidolon and Other Fantasies – Clark Ashton Smith

The Dark Eidolon and Other Fantasies is full of hauntingly beautiful while also disturbing stories, written by a member of the so-called “Lovecraft Circle”. A real gem of weird fiction and horror literature as a whole.

You can buy the book here

27. The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All – Laird Barron

The first short story collection by Laird Barron I’ve read, which made me instantly fall in love with his works. Nowadays, the author is one of the most popular weird fiction writes, often put in the same sentence as H.P. Lovecraft or Thomas Ligotti. If you would like to check if his stories are a good match for you – give Blackwood’s Baby a shot, you won’t regret it.

You can buy the book here

So, that would be it for now. With time I will try to update the list with new interesting horror books. How many of the mentioned works have you read and which ones are your favorites? How would your list look like? Please let me know in the comments.

“Peace” Gene Wolfe – an ambitious ghost story

After writing about great weird sci-fi The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, I decided to take a closer look at Gene Wolfe’s Novel – Peace. While this book can often be found on sci-fi listings, I believe there is more to it. That in fact it’s an ambitious, wonderfully orchestrated ghost story. Enjoy.

"Peace" Gene Wolfe - review

In one of his interviews, Neil Gaiman said, that Peace is not only one of his favorite novels, but also one of a few modern ones which he admires. It comes as no surprise – Gene Wolfe managed to create a complexed, dark story, not unlike those we get from the author of The American Gods. First things first, though – Peace is a challenging book, and its slightly over two hundred thirty pages might be deceiving. At first glance, it tells a story of some older senior citizen – Alden Weer, who can manipulate memories. We get to know some anecdotes from his life – from childhood until the bitter end. It looks like a simple story with fantastic elements, right?. But is it really? While reading Peace, you will often have a weird feeling, that something about this story just isn’t right, but it’s difficult to identify what exactly. What’s actually hidden in the depths of Weer’s memories?

I think that it is worth to pay attention to the title of the novel. The word “peace” means a situation or state in which there is no violence or other disturbing factors. In my opinion, this is the key to discover real ending intended by Gene Wolfe – a dark and blood-chilling one. What is the meaning of the elm planted in front of Weer’s house? What’s wrong with the narrator’s memories? You will have to find out for yourself.

If I were to give some hints concerning the reading of Peace, I advise you not to trust the narrator – he is not always reliable. Also, pay attention to all the details in his flashbacks, especially when it comes to fairy tales – they hide keys needed to decipher Weer’s story and find out the truth about his family.

Similarly to, for instance, Peter Watts’ Blindsight, Peace almost immediately throws us into the deep end – we don’t know most of the characters and their significance. While a little bit confusing, it was intended by the author – the book was written to be read more than once. Otherwise, it might be an arduous task to fully appreciate the ghost story masterpiece created by Wolfe. For my part, I can assure you that it’s worth the effort.

Paradoxically that’s also one of the main drawbacks of Gene Wolfe’s Peace – the entry barrier here is very high. It requires the reader to be focused all the time and read the book at least twice. If you are not looking for a demanding novel, which will make you deeply analyze its content – you will probably get tired with Peace very fast. In other case – you are in for a real treat.

What role do memories play in our lives? Do they, in the end, become some kind of space we can happily return to or maybe a prison which prevents us from moving on? What’s your opinion on the subject? Please let me know in the comment section.

Summing up


Peace is a unique novel, requiring its reader to devote enough time and energy needed to discover the truth hiding behind Weer’s story. If you are looking for an ambitious ghost story that will make you feel uncomfortable and stay in your memory long after finishing it – don’t hesitate and plunge into the weird world of Alder Weer’s memories.
Grade: 9/10

Have you read Peace by Gene Wolfe? What are your thoughts about this novel?

PS. You can buy the book here:

Thomas Ligotti "Teatro Grottesco"

“Teatro Grottesco” Thomas Ligotti

I have recently written posts about weird fiction novels such as The Fisherman by Joseph Langan, Borne by Jeff VanderMeer and Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany. This time I decided to take a closer look at Thomas Ligotti’s short story collection – Teatro Grottesco. Is it really a masterpiece of weird literature? Let’s find out. 

"Teatro Grottesco" Thomas Ligotti - Weird Pond review

Thomas Ligotti

I think that for starters, we should mention a few words about Teatro Grottesco’s author and also the weird fiction genre itself. As a teenager, Ligotti liked to read horror stories written by famous writers like Algernon Blackwood or M.R. James. He admits though that Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft and Brunon Schulz had a bigger influence on his works. Now he is considered to be one of the leading authors when it comes to philosophical horror, and his stories are slowly beginning to gain recognition also in the eyes of readers, who are not weird fiction passionates. Interestingly, you can find references to Ligotti’s works in top-rated TV series – True Detective

Nothing belongs to us. Everything is something that is rented out. Our very heads are filled with rented ideas passed on from one generation to the next.

Weird fiction literature 

What makes weird fiction different from ordinary horror? Well, the main goal of authors creating in this genre is not to simply frighten the reader, but to evoke in him feeling of anxiety, usually caused by confrontation with the unknown. I think that Ligotti’s works perfectly fit this definition. Their task is to draw the reader into a surreal, nightmare-like world, which will stay in his imagination long after finishing the book. If you would like to learn more about the weird fiction genre, I can recommend, for example, reading this article by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer

Ligotti’s short stories

The attic is not haunting your head – your head is haunting the attic. Some heads are more haunted than others, whether they are haunted by ghosts or by gods or by creatures from outer space.

Unlike authors such as H.P. Lovecraft or Robert E. Howard, Ligotti did not create one consistent universe for works. While reading, however, you can see some similarities between places mentioned in his stories – they are usually degenerated, fallen towns. The “town near the northern border” and its grotesque inhabitants are a perfect example of this.  

While taking a closer look at characters in Ligotti’s stories, it’s easy to notice that we usually don’t get much information about them – only that they suffer from some physical or mental ailments and are social outcasts. Then, suddenly, in one way or another, they are confronted with some distortion of reality – stranger recordings, peculiar amusement park or a mysterious organization hunting artists. If we take under consideration the fact, that Ligotti’s characters are ofter on the verge of madness from the get-go, we can never be really sure whether the encounter with the unknown actually took place or whether it was merely a delusion of sick person. I think, however, that this issue if of marginal importance when it comes to this writer’s works. In his stories, the human psyche and how it reacts when collided with the weird take the spotlight. 

There is no way out of the nightmare once you have gone so far into its depths.

I think that it’s also worth to notice, that Ligotti’s character’s mental states, usually correspond with the distortions of reality around them. To some extent, it even reflects their minds. 

Teatro Grottesco

In this short story collection, we can find some of the author’s most famous works. The first one is Purity – a text, which in my opinion, inspired an excellent browser game My father’s long long legs. A family moves into a fallen town, and the father decides to start using the basement for his mysterious research.

The next story is The Town Manager. Shortly after the official mentioned in the title disappear, which, as it turns out, is nothing new for the local community, residents start to look for his successor. You can quickly notice that each next manager is more degenerated manifestation, brought to life by some unknown force whose one and only goal seems to sow chaos.  

One of my favorite short stories included in Teatro Grottesco is definitely The Clown Puppet. The main character has visions of a weird jester-like creature manifestations, and in the end, he has to confront his nightmare in a really disturbing finale. Truly a tremendous weird fiction story.

If asked to name the definitive image in Lovecraft, one might likely say its tentacles flailing from the body of a monster. For me, it would probably be puppets, manikins, and clown-like things, even though these are more often a matter of metaphor than a literal presence of a monstrous type. Nevertheless, if Lovecraft’s tentacle monsters and my puppets and so on fought each other, I think the monsters would win. Thomas Ligotti

However, I was impressed the most by Teatro Grottesco, Gas station carnivals, and The Bungalow House. Each of them is a true masterpiece when it comes to build a nightmarish, disturbing atmosphere. If I had to recommend someone a shorty story capable of showing what’s best in weird fiction, I would probably pick of the texts mentioned above. 

I think that it’s also worth to mention that Teatro Grottesco includes stories belonging to sub-genre called corporate horror. The author, for instance, tells us a story about a world which is being slowly taken over by a big pharmaceutical company. Actually the history presented in the text sounds disturbingly probable. All in all – every story included in this collection is definitely worth reading. 

Summing up:

Weird fiction stories by Thomas Ligotti are perfect examples showing, that horror, often associated with light entertainment, can be a really ambitious literature. In my opinion, Teatro Grottesco is a masterpiece that I can honestly recommend to any book lover, who is ready to plunge into a disturbing, surreal world of nightmares created by the author. 

Grade: 10/10

Have you read any short stories by Thomas Ligotti? Which one is your favorite, and why? Please let me know in the comments section.

You can buy the book here:

Thomas Ligotti "Teatro Grottesco"

“Teatro Grottesco” Thomas Ligotti – book review

I have recently written posts about weird fiction novels such as The Fisherman by Joseph Langan, Borne by Jeff VanderMeer and Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany. This time I decided to take a closer look at Thomas Ligotti’s short story collection – Teatro Grottesco. Is it really a masterpiece of weird literature? Let’s find out. 

"Teatro Grottesco" Thomas Ligotti - Weird Pond review

Thomas Ligotti

I think that for starters, we should mention a few words about Teatro Grottesco’s author and also the weird fiction genre itself. As a teenager, Ligotti liked to read horror stories written by famous writers like Algernon Blackwood or M.R. James. He admits though that Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft and Brunon Schulz had a bigger influence on his works. Now he is considered to be one of the leading authors when it comes to philosophical horror, and his stories are slowly beginning to gain recognition also in the eyes of readers, who are not weird fiction passionates. Interestingly, you can find references to Ligotti’s works in top-rated TV series – True Detective

Nothing belongs to us. Everything is something that is rented out. Our very heads are filled with rented ideas passed on from one generation to the next.

Weird fiction literature 

What makes weird fiction different from ordinary horror? Well, the main goal of authors creating in this genre is not to simply frighten the reader, but to evoke in him feeling of anxiety, usually caused by confrontation with the unknown. I think that Ligotti’s works perfectly fit this definition. Their task is to draw the reader into a surreal, nightmare-like world, which will stay in his imagination long after finishing the book. If you would like to learn more about the weird fiction genre, I can recommend, for example, reading this article by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer

Ligotti’s short stories

The attic is not haunting your head – your head is haunting the attic. Some heads are more haunted than others, whether they are haunted by ghosts or by gods or by creatures from outer space.

Unlike authors such as H.P. Lovecraft or Robert E. Howard, Ligotti did not create one consistent universe for works. While reading, however, you can see some similarities between places mentioned in his stories – they are usually degenerated, fallen towns. The “town near the northern border” and its grotesque inhabitants are a perfect example of this.  

While taking a closer look at characters in Ligotti’s stories, it’s easy to notice that we usually don’t get much information about them – only that they suffer from some physical or mental ailments and are social outcasts. Then, suddenly, in one way or another, they are confronted with some distortion of reality – stranger recordings, peculiar amusement park or a mysterious organization hunting artists. If we take under consideration the fact, that Ligotti’s characters are ofter on the verge of madness from the get-go, we can never be really sure whether the encounter with the unknown actually took place or whether it was merely a delusion of sick person. I think, however, that this issue if of marginal importance when it comes to this writer’s works. In his stories, the human psyche and how it reacts when collided with the weird take the spotlight. 

There is no way out of the nightmare once you have gone so far into its depths.

I think that it’s also worth to notice, that Ligotti’s character’s mental states, usually correspond with the distortions of reality around them. To some extent, it even reflects their minds. 

Teatro Grottesco

In this short story collection, we can find some of the author’s most famous works. The first one is Purity – a text, which in my opinion, inspired an excellent browser game My father’s long long legs. A family moves into a fallen town, and the father decides to start using the basement for his mysterious research.

The next story is The Town Manager. Shortly after the official mentioned in the title disappear, which, as it turns out, is nothing new for the local community, residents start to look for his successor. You can quickly notice that each next manager is more degenerated manifestation, brought to life by some unknown force whose one and only goal seems to sow chaos.  

One of my favorite short stories included in Teatro Grottesco is definitely The Clown Puppet. The main character has visions of a weird jester-like creature manifestations, and in the end, he has to confront his nightmare in a really disturbing finale. Truly a tremendous weird fiction story.

If asked to name the definitive image in Lovecraft, one might likely say its tentacles flailing from the body of a monster. For me, it would probably be puppets, manikins, and clown-like things, even though these are more often a matter of metaphor than a literal presence of a monstrous type. Nevertheless, if Lovecraft’s tentacle monsters and my puppets and so on fought each other, I think the monsters would win. Thomas Ligotti

However, I was impressed the most by Teatro Grottesco, Gas station carnivals, and The Bungalow House. Each of them is a true masterpiece when it comes to build a nightmarish, disturbing atmosphere. If I had to recommend someone a shorty story capable of showing what’s best in weird fiction, I would probably pick of the texts mentioned above. 

I think that it’s also worth to mention that Teatro Grottesco includes stories belonging to sub-genre called corporate horror. The author, for instance, tells us a story about a world which is being slowly taken over by a big pharmaceutical company. Actually the history presented in the text sounds disturbingly probable. All in all – every story included in this collection is definitely worth reading. 

Summing up:

Weird fiction stories by Thomas Ligotti are perfect examples showing, that horror, often associated with light entertainment, can be a really ambitious literature. In my opinion, Teatro Grottesco is a masterpiece that I can honestly recommend to any book lover, who is ready to plunge into a disturbing, surreal world of nightmares created by the author. 

Grade: 10/10

Have you read any short stories by Thomas Ligotti? Which one is your favorite, and why? Please let me know in the comments section.

amzn_assoc_tracking_id = “weirdpond-20”; amzn_assoc_ad_mode = “manual”; amzn_assoc_ad_type = “smart”; amzn_assoc_marketplace = “amazon”; amzn_assoc_region = “US”; amzn_assoc_design = “enhanced_links”; amzn_assoc_asins = “0753513749”; amzn_assoc_placement = “adunit”; amzn_assoc_linkid = “7a67efcce5b89410ad7701607403e09c”; //z-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/onejs?MarketPlace=US

“The Fisherman” John Langan – book review

After publishing a few articles concerning weird fiction books and stories, I have decided to start reading another highly rated novel from this genre — John Langan’s The Fisherman. Is the Bram Stoker Award’s winner really worth the read? Let’s find out.

"The Fisherman" John Langan - review

I’ve stood on the shore of an ocean whose waves were as black as the ink trailing from the tip of this pen. I’ve watched a woman with skin pale as moonlight open her mouth, and open it, and open it, into a cavern set with rows of serrated teeth that would have been at home in a shark’s jaw.

Before we take a closer look at The Fisherman’s plot, I would like to dedicate a few words to the edition itself. The choice of the cover illustration was a brilliant move by Word Horde publishing house. Albert Bierstadt’s Puget Sound of the Pacific Coast perfectly fits the story told by John Langan and after you are done reading the book, I strongly recommend taking another look at the cover. Ok, now that the credit has been given, where the credit’s due, we can move on to the novel’s plot.

The Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast, Albert Bierstadt, 1870.

The Fisherman — the story of overcoming grief

What’s lost is lost.

One of the main topics discussed in John Langan’s The Fisherman is pain associated with the loss of our closest ones. At the very beginning of the novel, Abe, the narrator, whose wife died of cancer, states that other people’s compassion quickly fades away and sooner or later you are left alone with your pain. Trying to deal with his pain, The Fisherman’s protagonist decides to take up a new hobby, which might distract him from his sorrow. The choice is fishing.

After few years Abe is joined on his trips by his colleague from work Dan — a man who also lost family in a terrible accident. Right now it’s worth to mention that characters created by John Langan are painfully credible which allows the reader to identify and sympathize with them in their suffering.

Some things are so bad that just to have been near them taints you, leaves a spot of badness in your soul like a bare patch in the forest where nothing will grow.

Having read The Fisherman, you might interpret the quote above in two different ways. Firstly it’s really easy to just assume that it concerns the Lovecraftian nightmares hiding behind the veil of reality. That after interacting with something otherworldly disturbing, a person simply cannot keep to its sanity. On the other hand though, if the focus on the pain both main characters had experienced before taking a sneak peek under the world’s mask, we can see that the aforementioned quote, in fact, concerns the pain associated with losing someone we love. In his novel, John Langan decided to confront his protagonists with a dark folk legend, which might give them a glimmer of hope to somehow reconnect with their deceased loved ones. How far will they go to reach this goal? How much are they willing to sacrifice?

The Fisherman — a weird fiction masterpiece

Maybe whoever, or whatever, is running the show isn’t so nice. Maybe he’s evil, or mad, or bored, disinterested. Maybe we’ve got everything completely wrong, everything, and if we could look through the mas, what we’d see would destroy us.

John Langan skillfully, with great attention to detail, creates an atmosphere of terror and uneasiness, while slowly introducing us to the novel’s universe. It’s hard to argue with Laird Barron’s opinion, The Fisherman sometimes brings to mind the stories by M.R. James and Robert E. Howard. Some parts of Langan’s book look like a classic slow burner, where we from time to time get scraps of information, which bring us closer to a dark revelation. After a moment, though, Langan serves us exciting, energetic action, with which even Conan’s creator wouldn’t be ashamed of. For my part, I would also like to add that suggestive descriptions of nature and surrealistic reality created by Langan bring to mind an association with another weird fiction classic — Algernon Blackwood.

Characters in weird fiction stories usually at some point interact with something weird (mostly in a dark way), somehow inappropriate for the reality as we know it. It’s no different when it comes to The Fisherman. Getting to know the dark folk legend of Der Fisher is such an experience for Abe and Dan. Black magic, exorcisms, surrealistic visions resembling our worst nightmares and powerful, hard to comprehend forces, which might easily find their places in Lovecraft’s universe — you will find all those things and more in Langan’s novel.

The story inside a story

One of The Fisherman’s characters mentions, that telling stories is an integral part of fishing. In books, movies or computer games we can often encounter old, experienced fisherman sharing terrifying stories from his time at sea. Obviously, there is a downpour outside and lightning from time to time brightens the sky. In my opinion, The Fisherman is, to some extent, a tribute to this kind of storytelling.

In his novel, Langan included two stories, distant by time, but otherwise strongly related. The first one focuses on the aforementioned characters — Abe and Dan, while the other one is told by the owner of a bar for fishermen. The second one clearly refers to Henry Melville’s Moby Dick (we can even find a quote from this classic at the very beginning of The Fisherman). If you take a closer look at the story I’m sure you will be able to find many more references to other famous books and authors.

Summing up:

The Fisherman is one of the best weird fiction novels I have ever read. The wonderful, fluid narrative, surreal visions, and disturbing atmosphere make reading John Langan’s book pure pleasure. A real treat for the fans of horror literature.

Grade: 9/10

Have you read The Fisherman? What are your thoughts after finishing this novel?

amzn_assoc_tracking_id = “weirdpond-20”; amzn_assoc_ad_mode = “manual”; amzn_assoc_ad_type = “smart”; amzn_assoc_marketplace = “amazon”; amzn_assoc_region = “US”; amzn_assoc_design = “enhanced_links”; amzn_assoc_asins = “1939905214”; amzn_assoc_placement = “adunit”; amzn_assoc_linkid = “6ea36aff8e7289e3cce0476f7faab3db”; //z-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/onejs?MarketPlace=US

“The Fisherman” John Langan – weird fiction masterpiece

After publishing a few articles concerning weird fiction books and stories, I have decided to start reading another highly rated novel from this genre — John Langan’s The Fisherman. Is the Bram Stoker Award’s winner really worth the read? Let’s find out.

"The Fisherman" John Langan - review

I’ve stood on the shore of an ocean whose waves were as black as the ink trailing from the tip of this pen. I’ve watched a woman with skin pale as moonlight open her mouth, and open it, and open it, into a cavern set with rows of serrated teeth that would have been at home in a shark’s jaw.

Before we take a closer look at The Fisherman’s plot, I would like to dedicate a few words to the edition itself. The choice of the cover illustration was a brilliant move by Word Horde publishing house. Albert Bierstadt’s Puget Sound of the Pacific Coast perfectly fits the story told by John Langan and after you are done reading the book, I strongly recommend taking another look at the cover. Ok, now that the credit has been given, where the credit’s due, we can move on to the novel’s plot.

The Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast, Albert Bierstadt, 1870.

The Fisherman — the story of overcoming grief

What’s lost is lost.

One of the main topics discussed in John Langan’s The Fisherman is pain associated with the loss of our closest ones. At the very beginning of the novel, Abe, the narrator, whose wife died of cancer, states that other people’s compassion quickly fades away and sooner or later you are left alone with your pain. Trying to deal with his pain, The Fisherman’s protagonist decides to take up a new hobby, which might distract him from his sorrow. The choice is fishing.

After few years Abe is joined on his trips by his colleague from work Dan — a man who also lost family in a terrible accident. Right now it’s worth to mention that characters created by John Langan are painfully credible which allows the reader to identify and sympathize with them in their suffering.

Some things are so bad that just to have been near them taints you, leaves a spot of badness in your soul like a bare patch in the forest where nothing will grow.

Having read The Fisherman, you might interpret the quote above in two different ways. Firstly it’s really easy to just assume that it concerns the Lovecraftian nightmares hiding behind the veil of reality. That after interacting with something otherworldly disturbing, a person simply cannot keep to its sanity. On the other hand though, if the focus on the pain both main characters had experienced before taking a sneak peek under the world’s mask, we can see that the aforementioned quote, in fact, concerns the pain associated with losing someone we love. In his novel, John Langan decided to confront his protagonists with a dark folk legend, which might give them a glimmer of hope to somehow reconnect with their deceased loved ones. How far will they go to reach this goal? How much are they willing to sacrifice?

The Fisherman — a weird fiction masterpiece

Maybe whoever, or whatever, is running the show isn’t so nice. Maybe he’s evil, or mad, or bored, disinterested. Maybe we’ve got everything completely wrong, everything, and if we could look through the mas, what we’d see would destroy us.

John Langan skillfully, with great attention to detail, creates an atmosphere of terror and uneasiness, while slowly introducing us to the novel’s universe. It’s hard to argue with Laird Barron’s opinion, The Fisherman sometimes brings to mind the stories by M.R. James and Robert E. Howard. Some parts of Langan’s book look like a classic slow burner, where we from time to time get scraps of information, which bring us closer to a dark revelation. After a moment, though, Langan serves us exciting, energetic action, with which even Conan’s creator wouldn’t be ashamed of. For my part, I would also like to add that suggestive descriptions of nature and surrealistic reality created by Langan bring to mind an association with another weird fiction classic — Algernon Blackwood.

Characters in weird fiction stories usually at some point interact with something weird (mostly in a dark way), somehow inappropriate for the reality as we know it. It’s no different when it comes to The Fisherman. Getting to know the dark folk legend of Der Fisher is such an experience for Abe and Dan. Black magic, exorcisms, surrealistic visions resembling our worst nightmares and powerful, hard to comprehend forces, which might easily find their places in Lovecraft’s universe — you will find all those things and more in Langan’s novel.

The story inside a story

One of The Fisherman’s characters mentions, that telling stories is an integral part of fishing. In books, movies or computer games we can often encounter old, experienced fisherman sharing terrifying stories from his time at sea. Obviously, there is a downpour outside and lightning from time to time brightens the sky. In my opinion, The Fisherman is, to some extent, a tribute to this kind of storytelling.

In his novel, Langan included two stories, distant by time, but otherwise strongly related. The first one focuses on the aforementioned characters — Abe and Dan, while the other one is told by the owner of a bar for fishermen. The second one clearly refers to Henry Melville’s Moby Dick (we can even find a quote from this classic at the very beginning of The Fisherman). If you take a closer look at the story I’m sure you will be able to find many more references to other famous books and authors.

Summing up:

The Fisherman is one of the best weird fiction novels I have ever read. The wonderful, fluid narrative, surreal visions, and disturbing atmosphere make reading John Langan’s book pure pleasure. A real treat for the fans of horror literature.

Grade: 9/10

Have you read The Fisherman? What are your thoughts after finishing this novel?

You can buy the book here: