An intensely moving tale of survival and madness along the river’s edge. A father and son fishing lesson become a nightmarish voyage to the sea in this visionary testament to the lengths we will go for those we love.
“If he ever dies, I’ll kill myself.”
“It’s the end if he dies. I won’t be able to bear it here. I love him too much.”
You really don’t understand the meaning of existential dread until you have children. For you no children folks, I’m sure you’re shaking your head, maybe chuckling. But I’ll tell you, it’s true. Human beings have been obsessed with immortality since consciousness sprouted in our little lizard brains. And let’s face it, there is no Heaven or Hell, this is it, and the only way you exist after you’ve shuffled along into the dust is your children. They carry your genetics and memory, and it’s going to be the only way you’re going to remain in the land of living. A lot of people screw it up, make a mess of their kids, the kids become killers or social workers hoping to pull kids out of the fire they were forged in or destroy them. But if you do it right (And sometimes you can screw up a kid even when you are doing it right.), there’s a better chance than not you’re children we’ll go on to preserving the things you taught them, continuing your tenuous connection to the living.
With his latest, emotionally brutal novella, In The River, Jeremy Robert Johnson fully examines the all-consuming horror of losing a child. Steeped in the ritualism of father and son bonding, the plot of the book focus’ on a day of fishing along a tumultuous river bank. Being a Johnson story, the setting is a bizarre world where giant catfish like creatures hide in the deep crags of the river patiently hunting the sun-drenched surface from the dark, sniffing out weakness and blood. And while these razor-toothed behemoths provide a spectacular jumping off point into the madness and despair which dominates the narrative like a skulking, mud spattered shadow.
Johnson’s typically satiric, conversational voice is non-existent in the novella, he instead finds a mournful, James Ellroy influenced tone that matches the depth of the story. Johnson’s sentences are blunt instruments, simple in design, but meant to cause maximum damage. If you haven’t caught on, In The River is an intense read and as a long time Johnson reader, it was a bit of a shock to the system because of both the subject matter and the overall narrative tone; not that either of these things are bad. Johnson has been long establishing himself as one of the premier writers of the weird alongside such talents as Kelly Link and Stephen Graham Jones, and with In The River, he demonstrates a depth of storytelling that cements him not just as a rising voice, but one that has arrived.
In The River is a fierce, distinctive gut-punch of a read with enough gritty darkness to to bring even the most jaded reader of dark fiction to their knees.
Fiction By Steve Rasnic Tem, Michael Wehunt, Usman T. Malik, Dino Parenti, H.L. Fuller, and Lina Rather.
Non-Fiction By Mackenzie Cox, Max Booth III, Diddle Knabb, and Keith Rawson (Yeah, me).
Poetry By Andrew McSorley, Laura McCullough, Jerome Daly, and Lindsey Adkins.
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