by Nathan Ballingrud
“Mankind had acquired an appetite for dying; doctors were merely shephards to the process.”
Consisting of 9 short stories, North American Lake Monsters won the 2013 Shirley Jackson award for best collection in May 2014. Particularly notable is the fact it beat Michael Marshall Smith’s Everything You Need for the award, a collection not to be underestimated.
All stories within are solidly written in easy, accessible language and each page flows effortlessly into the next. There seems to be an accelerating trend over the last few years of not ending the tale, ostensibly giving the reader opportunity to view the story as a ‘slice of life’ of the characters. The technique works here, but it’s not something everyone looks for in short stories. It’s kind of like channel surfing. You can switch to a channel and view a few moments of a story, either well or poorly done, and by the time you see a commercial switch to another channel for another slice of a story. If well done you did just enjoy the few minutes you saw but moved on too quickly to for any deeper meaning. Not all the stories in North American Lake Monsters behaved this way, but enough of them do to give this impression.
Despite a little trouble with the non-endings, the high quality of personable writing moves the reader through the book very quickly. Even with no intention of doing so the slick style of writing may compel you to finish this book in a single sitting.
Clocking in at about 200 pages, it’s a quick, award winning read.