Books

[Book Review] The Fisherman (John Langan, 2016) ★★★★☆

cover The Fisherman by John Langan

The Fisherman is a well-crafted Lovecraftian tale with a unique appealing structure. 


The Fisherman is a Lovecraftian, supernatural, weird fiction epos with an underlying theme about grief. It is a frame narrative, a story within a story, with a unique structure. One big story is told in a chronological order but by different characters, each telling the tale from their unique perspective.

The narration jumps from person to person, and each part is told by the one who has witnessed that particular part. That way the story has different tones and voices, but still remains one big epic story about supernatural occurrences and another dimension. 


Plot

The introducing story is about Abe who lost his wife Marie at a young age. He is still grieving but finds solace in fishing. When his colleague Dan loses his entire family in an accident he takes him out fishing. At a diner on their way to fishing spot Dutchman’s Creek, Howard the cook tells them a particular story about the place.

That story is the actual story and takes place a lifetime ago near Dutchman’s Creek. It was told by a Reverend who in turn was told by Lottie who lived this strange tale. The tale tells the story and legend about her, her family and her father and a mysterious fisherman who came into town, opening up another world filled with monsters. 


Why you should read it

First of all, the structure and style are unique and very well put together. The different perspectives, the different voices of the characters make it all the more intriguing and in a way, real, like you are reading eyewitness reports, written down in a vivid way and a luscious style. 

Asides from the different perspectives, the way different people look at a situation becomes clear as well and are a big part of the story, making it a varied read. Things that one narrator didn’t witness is filled in by someone else who was there, and so the whole story is coming together in a unique way. It’s also a great and original way to get to know the characters to understand them, their motivations, their actions and thoughts. 

The story itself is a fantastical supernatural read, with a great buildup, with well-crafted sentences. It has an ominous and daunting atmosphere, that worms into the story causing visceral horror. 

It mixes history with supernatural occurrences and mystery. The legend of Dutchman’s Creek is the centre of the story. It’s intriguing, scary and speaks to the imagination. It’s very Lovecraftian, but Langan has made it its own, taking the weird fiction to a higher level by mixing it with heavy themes like grief and mourning. 

While the story begins and ends with Abe, the actual legendary story is a family epos that focuses as much on the family members and their personal experiences as on the supernatural events that slowly enter their lives. In fact, Abe’s story I found the least attractive to read, and after the epic ending of Lottie’s tale about Dutchman’s Creek, the story goes further with Abe and Dan who despite of Howard’s cautionary tale go to the Creek and find out the truth about the legend, the hard way. It’s a little strange to read further after an epic conclusion. Even more so as the eventual ending isn’t as epic as the other ending. 

But Abe’s story still is the foundation of the novel. A story with grief as a major theme. This theme is fleshed out in a sincere way but can sometimes be a bit bleak. This of course befits a grave topic, but the dark sombre style is mainly due to the voice of Abe, for his narration can feel a bit bland. As for the actual ending of the novel itself, it can either be viewed cathartic to Abe or as a disappointment to the reader.

Why you should read this novel is mostly because of the epic tale about Lottie, her family and the mystery of the Fisherman. If you like Lovecraftian horror and weird fiction, this is a modern take that matches up to the old tales. 


My favorite part

No surprise here that it takes place in Howard’s story. It’s when Lottie’s father Rainer and his friends go out searching for the place the supernatural vibe comes from. From then on the Lovecrafian horror takes a flight as does the supernatural horror and it is a fantastic pay off after a well-buildup story arc and delivers an epic tale. 

The creative original imaginative style is wonderful and is weird fiction at its best. But the fun part is that each narrator has a different style that appeals to different readers. It makes it versatile in style and tone and it makes the book also perfect for a second read. Every time you can focus more on another narrator and perspective discovering other details to the story. 


A favorite quote

You asked if we knew how Dutchman’s Creek got its name,” Dan said, “so I assume you do. Right?” “That’s right,” Howard said. “’t’s quite the story. Some’d call it local legend, but there’s more to it than that. It is long…longer than you’d think.”


Ratings

Rating: ★★★★☆

Surreal factor: ★★★★☆

Originality factor: ★★★★★


Info

The Fisherman is written by John Langan and first published by Word Horde in 2016. It consists of 263 pages. 


cover The Fisherman by John Langan