"Blood Lake Monster" Book Review
Written by Tony Jones
Published by Unnerving
Written by Renee Miller
2020, 111 pages, Fiction
Released on 23rd July, 2020
Unnerving Magazine has been releasing their Rewind or Die series over the last year or so, with Renee Miller’s Blood Lake Monster their twelfth publication. With a title which gleefully harks back to trashy horror films of the seventies and eighties, you can expect blood, guts, and a respectable body count. However, as this is written by Renee Miller, there is also a story with slightly more edge and weight to it that your basic slasher film storyline or creature-feature inspired by the beast that crawled out of the Black Lagoon.
I am a fan of this author and have read a fair bit of her fiction, and if you are after easy-to-read, novella-length fiction which often features both heavy gore and monsters, this author is worth investigating further. On a fundamental level the plot concerns a beast lurking in a lake, but Miller delivers extra spice in the form of sympathetic characters, humour, and twists which give her fiction added edge. For HorrorDNA.Com I have previously reviewed and enjoyed both Howl and Stranded. The former is an entertaining and very violent werewolf yarn where an unlucky group of travellers take a wrong turn down a road they seriously wish they had avoided. Stranded is probably my favourite; a group of aspiring actors are sent to a remote Arctic island to shoot a virtual reality challenge show about the extremes of nature, but something very nasty is waiting there and it is not the weather.
Blood Lake Monster resides in the same danger zone as both of these other novellas and is easy to speed through in a couple of hours, in actual fact, it packs much into its 111-pages with quirky plot shifts and family drama, but at heart it is a monster story. Most of the action takes place around a trailer park outside the non-descript Canadian town of Tweed, which the first main character introduced, Maribel Daniels, dreams of leaving. Her wish is about to become a reality, aged seventeen, she is about to graduate high school, leave for university with the excitement of a new chapter to her life lying ahead.
Maribel is the first great strength of Blood Lake Monster, as an outsider she is very easy to root for. Bullied at school because of her ordinary looks and with a question mark over her sexuality, she is singled out in by one of her classmates, who lives locally and repeatedly torments her. Although these high school scenes are fleeting, they vividly paint the picture of the difficult life Maribel leads. The second major character is her younger sister Anya, who is twelve when the story opens, but is developed substantially when the plot cleverly moves forward a decade to when she is a young woman in her early twenties and her unexpected return to the park.
The trailer park backs onto a large lake which has a reputation for being dangerous and the story has fun playing around with the idea of local myths and how they are passed on. Most people avoid going into the water as at one stage there was a large chemical spill which turned the water red, hence the nickname ‘Blood Lake’. The story is built around a disappearance, the myths associated with the lake and the boys who bullied Maribel. For a relatively short work, the story takes in a decent number of point of views, including the three teenage boys crucial to the plot, in addition to the sisters.
Although Blood Lake Monster has its fair share of violence, with intestines spilled, decapitations and other murders, it is nicely balanced with Anya driving the story and reminiscing about her sister, whom she wished she knew better and slowly realises was being bullied at school all those years earlier but was too preoccupied with her own stuff to really care. I also enjoyed the fact that the action is also seen from the point of view of the creature, whom I found to be a very sad and lonely being. This is no Freddie Krueger or Jason Vorhees and is all the better for it. For the most part it targets males, which is a nice role reversal from most horror of this type.
Renee Miller packs much into her latest novella, which is great company for a couple of evenings. If you have never tried her before, Blood Lake Monster is a solid place to start, but do not forget Howl and Stranded, which I also recommend.
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