A lot of novels out there, they play with the tentacley, the eldritch, the elder, but this one . . . I don’t know. It kind of does it, first, in a way that doesn’t seem like ‘play’ at all, but more important, it does it in a way that kind of rewrites the world I thought I had an all right handle on. Southern Gods‘ running explanation for just the metaphysics or cosmic underpinnings of our world, they make scary sense. However, grand as that may sound, the real trick of Southern Gods, it’s that it manages to thread all that “Supernatural Horror in Literature” stuff in so seamlessly with a dramatic line that cooks. The pacing the dialogue, the action, the gore, it’s all done as well as can be done. This feels like a novel someone went over like a hundred and eighty times. To our benefit. Seriously. The writing chops on display here, they’re something to study, to learn from. However, just try: you’ll get wrapped up in the story, completely forget that you’re a writer. That’s what good novels do—turn you into a reader-only. I can’t recommend this one enough.
This story collection jacked with my head, and my heart. A friend I trust connected me with the people doing it, and told me that he thought there was something here I’d connect with. He was right. Only, as with all good horror, I came away kind of wondering if I actually wanted to be connected anymore. With Seven Sins, though—I don’t know. This is a different kind of horror than I’m used to, finally. It’s like you’re standing by the pumps at a gas station and somebody in the car across the island from you says, “Hunh, look at that, would you?” You lean into to see what he’s holding and he puts it in your hand, and it’s a bug or insect he pulled up from some grease, maybe. Still alive, somehow. The first thing you do here, it’s look up after his retreating form, to tell him that wait, you don’t want this, you’re not responsible for this thing, you don’t even like—but he’s already pulling away. Meaning this thing, it’s with you now. It’s yours. So, look back down to it, now. See that all that’s there, it’s a slug trail of grease. This whatever-it-is, it’s . . . crawled into your meat through the lines of your hand? It’s fluttered some hidden wings, is up in your hair now? That’s what reading Seven Sins feels like to me. Like I’ve let something into my bloodstream or my hair. Not sure when this one goes live, but be forewarned: it stays live.
In the acknowledgements, John Langan says he’s been writing this novel for years and years, going back to it over and over after long periods away. Because there was something there. Because he could kind of sense a large shape moving just under the surface of the water. Because, if he dangled the bait just right out there where it’s deep, he could pull something into the light for us. He does, he did. The Fisherman is a serious horror novel, completely on-par with his House of Windows, which is one of the books most often gone from my shelf, as I’m forever talking people into taking it with them for a week. Because that’s not at all what happens with Langan’s stories, with his novels: they don’t last only as long as it takes to read them. They’re with you for much longer than that. The Fisherman, it kind of unmoors you from what you thought you knew. Or, it offers an explanation that makes you realize that you would have rather just kept wondering. And it’s all done through fishing, of all things. Which, to me, is the mark of strong writing. Fishing, it holds zero point zero interest for me. I love to eat fish, but I don’t have the patience or whatever takes to actually pull them from the water. John Langan does, on the page. And he makes it absolutely gripping. And then he gifts us with some legit-disturbing imagery to take to our separate bedrooms as well. There may be some dead people with golden eyes in here, say. I don’t think that’s spoiling anything. However, what makes them creepy to me? If I’m remembering my Tibetan stuff half-right, of the two types of ro-langs you can raise—these are zombies, but as zombies were before the twentieth century got hold of them (really, before the current millennium got hold of them)—one of them has something a lot like golden eyes going on. Which then makes these shufflers that much more scary, because I no longer feel like Langan’s making them up. I feel like he’s tapping into a much older tradition. One that’s maybe, you know, persisted for a reason. So, me? I’m staying away from the small, hidden creeks for a while. The Fisherman‘s done it’s thing to me.