Book Review: The Fisherman by John Langan

 

Review by Hana Noel

“I’ve been fishing for a long time now, and as you might guess, I know a story or two. That’s what fishermen are, right? Storytellers.”

The Fisherman by John Langan is composed of 3 parts. The first part is about our main character Abe, his love of fishing, and the grief he feels after his wife succumbs to cancer. It also entails his unlikely friendship with his coworker Dan (who also lost his wife and kids) and how they started to fish together. Part one is excruciatingly descriptive and slow in my opinion. It sets out to build up character development with Abe and Dan and the whole tone of the novel, but the pacing is painfully sedated.

The second part starts to pick up a bit. Dan and Abe are heading to a new fishing spot, Dutchman’s Creek. They stop at a diner on the way and are told by Howard a very long story about the history of the town, the river, and why it isn’t a place to frequent. The story Howard tells spans a majority of the book and what starts as a history lesson quickly morphs into a Lovecraftian tale, one with a dead woman walking around, bones broken, whispering people’s secrets, another about a house with a whole black ocean in it.

“Splashed by the water the man vomited for his trouble, the brother said that the water was full of tadpoles. Only, they were such tadpoles as no one among them had ever seen before, black strips of flesh one or two inches long, every one capped by a single, bulbous blue eye, so it seemed as if the fellow who’d thrown them up had swallowed a bucketful of eyeballs.”

The third part is the best in my opinion. They get to the Dutchman’s Creek despite Howard’s warnings and, as they’re fishing, pull something horrific out of the water. This leads to what can only be called a haunting, both men seeing things that aren’t there, that aren’t quite right.

I chose to reread this book as it’s been a long time since I last visited it. I hailed it as one of my favorites. Though the second time reading it I found more faults within its pages.

Langan is a fantastic storyteller, there’s no doubt about that. My qualm is that this work is overly descriptive, to the point where I found myself skimming. It absolutely drags on about things that don’t seem pivotal to the story. Quite a bit of it feels like filler, in-depth descriptions of trees and telling rather than showing. By this I mean, writing every single action down that happens. Rather than just showing the reader, it spells things out.

Another issue I have with this book is the pacing. It is unhurried, almost technical. The second part, the little history lesson on Dutchman’s Creek, though interesting, takes up a majority of the book. It is told at a snail’s pace, with a few exciting and spooky encounters sprinkled throughout yes, but not enough to truly redeem it.

The story itself is good. You understand, as you finish the book, that the history lesson and the agonizing world building and character study did actually serve a purpose in some ways. That doesn’t make it any less boring though.

Like I said, this is a re-read of a previous favorite book. Originally I rated it 5 out of 5 stars. I’d say now I rate 3 out of 5.

If you can make it through the dry descriptions and the heft of the prose, the overall tone and message of this book can be thoroughly enjoyed.

Advertisement

One thought on “Book Review: The Fisherman by John Langan

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s