The Fisherman by John Langan

After losing loved ones, two men seek solace and find it in fishing together. When rumours of a mysterious creek reach them, they agree to check it out, but are soon confronted with a disturbing tale that involves the arcane, people coming back from the grave, and a figure known as Der Fisher.

(WARNING: This review contains minor spoilers.)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Fisherman immediately pulled on the heartstrings as it opened with one man’s confession about the hardship of losing his wife to cancer – the particular topic of terminal illness hits me personally, so I felt something for Abe. Trying to pick up the pieces of his life, Abe finds a sense of peace in fishing, and soon forms a bond with a coworker that lost his family in a tragic accident. The two continue the hobby together, their relationship compelling and emotional. From there it evolved into cautionary tales of dark magic, with loss and grief being central themes. To put it simply, it was two stories in one volume, the middle portion deviating from Abe and Dan while they listened to someone recite the history of Dutchman’s Creek, a fishing spot the two men wished to visit in the Catskill Mountains. The story-within-a-story trope can be jarring and is understandably avoided in some cases, because it’s common to get invested in one side over the other. I experienced it here to some extent, my interest initially with Abe rather than the switch to the early 1900s, but Langan eventually drew me right back in while shaping an equally absorbing, albeit different, narrative. Rather than the intimate account of Abe’s experiences, was a more fantastical adventure of arcane practices and magicians – both had their own strengths.

Let me state that the cosmic elements were excellent and satiated the hunger I have for colossal leviathans (and my appetite is great). The imagery, sometimes epic in scope, captivated my imagination until and I ate up every morsel Langan offered about his world. I’m an avid supporter of authors that take on the Lovecraftian sub-genre and make it their own, so when it’s coupled so masterfully with heart and topics that relate to being human, it’s no wonder I connected with it. As much as I sing its praises, though, I did struggle now and again, but working through the difficult moments was worth it; I think I’ll always have fond memories of this book, to be honest.

In conclusion: The setup for The Fisherman was slow, but it was constructed with so much intense feeling, that it honestly caught me off guard. Dutchman’s Creek gets the attention of widowers Abe and Dan, yet its reputation soon proves troublesome, especially when they discover the history behind its name. It’s true that being chopped up into three segments – Abe’s POV, followed by a glimpse into the past, before returning to Abe – somewhat disrupted the flow, but the storytelling transported me to nightmarish places and I always found my way back to being fascinated.

Notable Quote:

A story doesn’t have to be fitted like some kind of prefabricated house – no, it’s got to go its own way – but it does have to flow. Even a tale as coal-black as this one has its course.

© Red Lace 2022

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3 Comments on “The Fisherman by John Langan

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