“The Fisherman” by John Langan

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Formally, the American John Langan novel belongs to the horror genre, and, in general, has all of its external attributes: it has ominous omens, and ancient witchcraft, and a fatal curse, and monsters rising from the dark waters – in a word, everything that is meant to catch up on the reader’s creepiness and increase his electricity bills. However, it is precisely at this point that the genre canon is violated: “The Fisherman” by John Langan is not so much a terrible book, as piercing, almost sad to tears.

Two recent widowers, fellow colleagues Abe and Dan (Abe’s wife (Mary) died of cancer, Dan’s wife (Sophie) died in a car accident with her children), trying to find a cure for their destructive grief. For some time they manage to find comfort in fishing: sitting in silence with spinning on the shore and looking at the running water, they feel a little less lonely – their loved ones are supposedly invisible again with them. Alas, in time, a strange fantasy begins to take hold of Dan: he wants to throw the bait into the Dutch brook, which flows through the Catskill Mountains, surrounded by obscure rumors.

Having gone to those lands, friends stop to wait out the rain at a roadside diner and listen to the story about the stream (at this moment the plot lays a spacious loop back and forth), from which it becomes crystal clear to the reader and the more sensible Abe: from here you have to run , and preferably with all legs. But Dan, enchanted by the ghostly chance to make contact with the other world, and perhaps even for a moment to retrieve his loved ones from there, is not ready to retreat. The heroes go to the stream – and their further fate is predetermined by the genre of the book: yes, everything will be exactly as you expect – and no, the matter will not be limited to this.

However, as already mentioned, carefully guiding the reader through all the standard genre footbridges and poles and honestly doing “boo!” In the right places, in reality John Langan seeks not to scare, but to talk about love, loss, oppressive melancholy, vulnerability of the bereaved and principled the impossibility of recovering once lost — as well as existential horror and despair, with which any such attempt is fraught.

A similar gift – to seriously wound, reopen and scratch with the help of traditional, almost formulaic plots – was previously demonstrated except that the Swede John Ajvide Lindqvist, able to collect a clean and hysterical story about love, tolerance and separation from spare parts for a zombie apocalypse or vampire horror. John Langan does a similar trick, skillfully balancing on the inconceivable face of thrash horror on the one hand and real, serious prose on the other.

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