Friday, March 31, 2017

Short Fiction Friday: A House at the Bottom of a Lake by Josh Malerman

It's not the first time Amelia has been into James's father's store, but it is the first time he's gotten up the nerve to ask her out. And he's hoping the date he has planned will be a win: his uncle has a canoe and beyond the lake, there's a second secret lake they can explore minus any crowds. 

But as it turns out, there's an even more secret lake beyond that. One that James and Amelia have all to themselves. And in that lake, lying just below the placid surface, is a roof. A roof topping a house that's impeccably preserved under the water. A house James and Amelia have decided to explore...

I love, love, loved Josh Malerman's debut, Bird Box. I've bought it as gifts and recommended the ever living hell out of it. It's that good. And, like everyone else who fell in love with it, I've been waiting for anything and everything Malerman might write next. That includes the upcoming Mad Black Wheel, the quirky short "Ghastle and Yule" - a tale of two warring filmmakers, and the new novella A House at the Bottom of a Lake. Which I was lucky enough to snag for Christmas.

A House at the Bottom of a Lake is an odd one. Stylistically it's got vivid - and incredibly creepy - imagery. It's timeless in the sense that there is no real telling detail about when the story might take place. Which actually adds to the eeriness of the story.

It's something of a quiet tale, luring readers into a story of first love and first dates - those early days when everyone is on their best behavior trying to impress one another and overthinking each and every detail. Will he or she like me? Did I say something stupid? Will we have a second date? A third? It's something almost everyone experiences and is, as such, incredibly relatable.

But as we're drifting into this story alongside James and Amelia, Malerman carefully builds an underlying sense of dread. The discovery of the house is as exciting for us as it is for James and Amelia, but we have the foresight of knowing that something is going to happen. As their obsession with the building grows, we're treated to more and more details of the house with each new exploration. But that sense that something might be waiting - lurking - just around the corner is always there.

It makes for a deliciously tense read in my opinion!

That said, as with Bird Box there is no final explanation. Is the house real? Why has no one discovered it before? Or have they? These questions burn beyond the final page, making A House at the Bottom of a Lake the kind of horror that stays with you long after you finish.

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