North American Lake Monsters

North American Lake Monsters - Nathan Ballingrud

Despite sometimes quite lovely prose, this collection suffered from both of my pet peeves in a horror story collection: I was not scared, and there were no clear endings.


I fully admit that my expectations for horror were rather remarkably high going in. The first time I saw this on a list of "scariest" books, I tossed it on my Goodreads TBR list. The second time, I hopped on over the to library's website and, noting they didn't own it, asked that they consider getting it from Overdrive. I do love being scared, so anything that was hitting multiple "scariest" lists seemed like a fantastic idea, and done, well, short horror stories can be utterly fantastic and breathtakingly terrifying.


I was not scared once. 


I set myself up for fear when starting them. I waited until evening. I read them in the dark. I was creeping myself out just opening the book on my Kindle. Every sound was questionable, every hint of a shadow I saw out of the corner of my eye was something I needed to look at immediately or not at all. 


I think I actively became less scared while reading this collection. 


This was not helped by the lack of actual endings on the stories. 


Now, full disclosure here: this is a pet peeve of mine. I am really particular about any kind of "open" ending, especially on a short story. If it's done well, it is a beautiful thing. If not...there's really very little that is more likely to completely ruin a story for me. 


I don't think I felt a single one of these stories actually "ended." They stopped, obviously, but where and how the stopping happened was not satisfying in any way. Even the stories I was starting to enjoy ended abruptly and inadequately. I ended up wondering why the story had even been told, and I've never found that fun.