Book Review: North American Lake Monsters by Nathan Ballingrud

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Title: North American Lake Monsters

Author: Nathan Ballingrud

Release date: June 28, 2013

I’m absolutely late to the Ballingrud party and after seeing the praise heaped on his last collection Wounds, I knew I needed to dive in and start my journey into his fiction.

I love to have a short story collection on the go almost all of the time, reading one story each night after finishing my longer reads and this one fit the bill perfectly. Even more intriguing was the announcement that HULU was adapting the collection into a series titled ‘Monsterland.’

What I liked: this collection ran the gamut of subject matter and I found some of them immediately pulled me in, while a few were a bit more of a slow burn. The two stand out stories for me were easily ‘The Crevasse’ co-written with Mr. Bailey and ‘North American Lake Monsters.’ In ‘The Crevasse’ we follow along on an expedition in Antarctica when something goes horrifically wrong. It is during these actions that one of the characters discovers that maybe there is more under the ice than we believe. Truly amazing. The title story was a unique look at the re-infiltration of a man into his family after being in prison. A discovery by his daughter causes some amazing ripples through the familiar unit. I loved every sentence in this.

What I didn’t like: For me personally, some of the stories didn’t have any sense of closure, or the ending just went off in such an odd tangent that I was left perplexed. The easiest example of this was in the story ‘S S.’ This was an ‘American History-X’ style look at a high school kid walking a thin line of morals versus acceptance. The ending was something so unpredictable and head shaking I was left confused. Some people make like how this plays out in the stories, but I felt a bit let down with a number of them.

Why you should buy it: Ballingrud writes at an elevated level that is still highly accessible. Where I struggle at times with Ligotti’s literary approach, Ballingrud took that and made it readable for every horror fan, which was great. It’s something not a lot of people want to discuss, but at times horror fans can be intimidated by some authors purely because they are worried they don’t want to feel dumb or don’t believe they are smart enough to ‘get it.’ No worries here – dive in and have fun. And of course – with so much variance there is definitely something for everyone.

I haven’t seen a confirmed release date for ‘Monsterland’ so you still have time to read this and discover the source material before it graces our screens. As for me, I’ll be jumping into ‘Wounds’ tonight.

4/5

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