Title: A House at the Bottom of A Lake
Author: Josh Malerman
Genre: Horror Novella
Number of Pages: 118
This was one of the two books I got for my 25th birthday last month, and I’m sorry to say that it left me somewhat disappointed. I mean, between the cover illustration, the title, and the fact that the author wrote Bird Box (one of my favorites I’ve read this year, and maybe one of my favorites period) I couldn’t help having high expectations. Two teenagers finding a secret house underwater? Yes please. Bring it on.
The two main characters, James and Amelia, aren’t strongly developed (not surprising considering the length of the book,) but I immediately found myself liking them and I thought their burgeoning relationship was really cute. James is seventeen and works at his dad’s hardware store, and when he asks Amelia out on a date he is stunned when she actually says yes.
They take James’ uncle’s boat out on a lake and are enjoying getting to know each other better and a picnic on the water when they see a narrow tunnel neither knew existed. Like any adventure-seeking youngster, they squeeze through the tunnel and find a secret part of the lake, and then they find an underwater house. So, there’s no question about it. They have to find a way down there so they can find out what’s inside.
At first I was loving this book because of the amazing sense of atmosphere it creates and the creepy imagery that left me dying to know the why of it (as in, why is any of this happening? Did the lake choose these two kids for some reason?) but the ending disappointed the hell out of me and actually made me feel mildly pissed off. One of the two main reasons I felt let down was that I was expecting the conclusion to be shocking or at least surprising, but it instead it was an example of something ending with a fizzle instead of with a bang.
The second thing I hated about the ending and the primary reason I rated it lower than I would have otherwise was there were all the crazy unexplained events being thrown at me and I thought there would end up being some world-building offered about the origins of the house and all the fucked-up shit that goes down there, but no. There was no reason behind anything, nothing that offered any theories or ideas about a single thing that happened to these two kids.
It was just there, and it was cool and everything and there were definitely some moments that really creeped me out but otherwise there was so little context that the whole thing could have been a dream and been only slightly more disappointing. So, I went into it expected no-holds-barred awesomeness but it just ended up being okay. So maybe it was an example of my expectations being too high, which usually isn’t a good thing.