THE FISHERMAN by John Langan — A Gehenna Post Review

Greetings from the Ether,

Dark fiction titan John Langan has been on the scene for many years, producing numerous memorable tales, collections, and novels along the way. In 2016, Langan released The Fisherman. The poetic, imaginative novel went on to win the Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel. It is our pleasure to present the first chapter in our review series of John Langan’s work. This review is to be followed by our analysis of House of Windows, and we’ll cap off the review series interviewing the man, the myth, the legend himself.

Cover Art for The Fisherman (2016) by John Langan

If you’ve ever read a novel whose imagery stuck with you, seared hot into your brain, draining your sleep away, its vividness painted across your mind’s eye in a way that seems like a film streaming silently across the blacks of your eyelids every time you close them, then you have read a novel like John Langan’s The Fisherman. There are scenes in this novel, that are not only horrific in nature, but also linger in your thoughts wherever you go, like a wad of gum stuck to the sole of your shoe.

Langan’s unorthodox narrative structure, his attention to detail, the weird surrealism of the events which take place, and the mysteries that the Dutchman’s Creek hold, are some of the most effective components of storytelling that we have read all year. The Fisherman is a machine, each component equally important, working together to grind the axles, gears, and cogs to breathe life into a mechanism of haunting language and execution.

Deep within the heart of Langan’s novel, is the nature of grief and its effects on those who are the most emotionally vulnerable. What people are capable of when their reality is questioned, their fantasies realized. How grief can seep into one’s conscience, how it can transform someone, and perhaps most importantly (as we see with our protagonist Abe), how grief can be so powerful, we have to find a way to cope. A hobby, a sport, a distraction. Whatever is needed to keep sanity intact. Langan’s choice of words and his artistic rhythm keep our relationships with the main characters intimate, while also illustrating scenes of terror with a sharp and hallucinatory tongue.

The Fisherman combines Weird Fiction and Literary Horror, brewing a cocktail of unsettling imagery and a premise that invokes curiosity and intrigue. Imagine the horrors of Lovecraft’s “The Shadow over Innsmouth” bred with the mysterious surrealism of Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucketand you have The Fisherman, an epic piece that treads the border between literary fiction and downright hair-raising horror. The novel reads like that of a classic, while maintaining the atmosphere of weird fiction that is, by all means, unforgettable.

Langan pays homage to classics of literature, whether it be Herman Melville’s Moby Dick or the cosmic horrors of Lovecraft and the weird tales of authors like Machen and Algernon Blackwood. Where many authors fail to individualize their inspirations from their own writing, Langan succeeds triumphantly in setting his own work apart. It wouldn’t be right to compare The Fisherman to any other work. Its amalgamation of themes and motifs stretch far beyond the genre in which it is beheld, transcendent in its own storytelling while maintaining a course for originality all the way through.

The history and depth in which Langan describes the tale that unfolds, spanning over many decades, is of an intricate and astute precision that modern authors should take notice to. A page turner if there ever was one, the reader is hooked from the opening chapter and it becomes rather impossible to put the book down. Each chapter ends alluding to a larger horror awaiting on the horizon, each section ending with newfound mystery that chains the rest of the novel together. In a climax that is both cinematic and hauntingly poetic, Langan ends The Fisherman with a paragraph that has become etched into the recesses of our minds, clinging to our thoughts, replaying again and again, each time sending new chills down our spines.

Langan is a titan. That much is certain. This novel is his champion. The stakes and expectations for House of Windows are at an all-time high, and with the beauty that is The Fisherman, we know that it won’t disappoint. The Fisherman is one of the greatest horror novels to come out in the past decade, and it will continue to hold its precedence and importance for many years to come.


john langan

John Langan is the author of two novels, The Fisherman (Word Horde 2016) and House of Windows (Night Shade 2009), and two collections of stories, The Wide, Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies (Hippocampus 2013) and Mr. Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters (Prime 2008). With Paul Tremblay, he co-edited Creatures: Thirty Years of Monsters (Prime 2011). He’s one of the founders of the Shirley Jackson Awards, for which he served as a juror during its first three years. Currently, he reviews horror and dark fantasy for Locus magazine. In early 2017, his next collection, Sefira and Other Betrayals, will be published by Hippocampus Press. Later in 2017, Diversion Books will release a new edition of his first novel, House of Windows, which will include new material, including a new story further exploring the legacy of Belvedere House.


Thank you as always for stopping by, and make sure to check out our other reviews and follow us on social media!

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