Even the most deeply buried secrets can eventually see the light of day.
In “Damned If You Do,” a man named John has started seeing a therapist in order to untangle his troubled home life. The problem is that he really doesn’t seem to want to revisit the past and figure out why he’s ended up in such a difficult situation with his wife. I was fascinated by the idea of a protagonist who is incredibly reluctant to allow the audience into even the smallest corner of his mind, and I only became more intrigued by John’s backstory as the plot progressed. The ending caught me by surprise in a good way!
While I enjoyed all of the stories in this anthology, there were a few that could have used little more polishing before being published. “St. Thomas of El Paso” was a good example of this. The plot followed a young man named Thomas who was kicked out of the orphanage where he was being raised when the priest running it discovered that the boy was gay. I was enthralled with the main character’s struggle to survive on his own as a teenager and young adult, especially once strange things began to happen in the small towns near his home. The ending felt rushed when I compared it to the beginning and middle, though. I would have really liked to see the narrator slow down and dig into the conflicts that had originally drawn me into the plot. There was a lot of material in there that wasn’t given as much room to grow as it needed.
What I appreciated the most about “Bone Wary” was how much time the narrator, Henry, took to describe his art studio and home to the audience. All of those details not only made me curious to find out why Henry spent so much time explaining them, they also paid off handsomely once I realized what his dark secret to all of his success was. This is the kind of tale that requires some legwork from the audience in order to understand what’s going on, but it’s well worth the effort.
Tales from the Lake Vol. 2 was a rewarding read. I’d heartily recommend it to any fellow fans of scary science fiction.
Editor's note: This article was originally published at Long and Short Reviews. It has been republished with permission. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.