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North American Lake Monsters

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3.99  ·  Rating details ·  2,124 ratings  ·  384 reviews
Nathan Ballingrud's Shirley Jackson Award winning debut collection is a shattering and luminous experience not to be missed by those who love to explore the darker parts of the human psyche. Monsters, real and imagined, external and internal, are the subject. They are us and we are them and Ballingrud's intense focus makes these stories incredibly intense and irresistible. ...more
Hardcover, 205 pages
Published July 16th 2013 by Small Beer Press (first published June 21st 2013)
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Matthew Rettino They end. The horror is that they do not resolve. His stories do not always reassure, though there are brief epiphanies and some moments of…moreThey end. The horror is that they do not resolve. His stories do not always reassure, though there are brief epiphanies and some moments of redemption. (less)

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3.99  · 
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 ·  2,124 ratings  ·  384 reviews


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Laird Barron
Aug 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A bleak and uncompromising examination of 21st century masculinity through lenses of dark fantasy, noir, and horror. Ballingrud is an important figure in North American letters. He deserves a much wider readership.
Bradley
Nov 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
This short story collection is very good if you go in with properly set expectations. At least for me, that is. But I didn't know what to expect, either, so I kinda winged it until I got the main feels down.

Such as?

Atmosphere. This book does atmosphere all kinds of wonderful. :) I've got the redneck feel. I've got the desolation of New Orleans. I've got the howling wind, the drenched autumn air, the nameless feel of dread in the American South. It's fantastic. I feel the pressure.

Nuance. All of
...more
Char
Aug 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars! A most excellent collection!

I joined in the group read of this collection with the Literary Horror group over at Goodreads. I have always enjoyed reading a book with other people. Sometimes it enlightens me to aspects of the story I may have missed. Other times, it helps me to the view the story in a different light altogether.

In any case, this collection was superb. I was initially drawn to it due to Laird Barron's rave review. I won't go through each story separately, but these are
...more
Trish
Nov 15, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was thinking long and hard about whether to give this 2 or 3 stars. I'm aware I'm in the absolute minority since most reviewers are absolutely in love with this short story collection. But no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't see what was supposedly so special about these stories.

I'm not even questioning if the voices were authentic. However, there was no actual horror, I wasn't even grossed-out as I apparently was supposed to sometimes.
The stories are full of awful creatures, sometim
...more
Melki
Jul 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I try to read a short story every day, so I burn through a lot of collections each year. This one was special. I really looked forward to picking it up each morning because I never knew what to expect. Would it be a tale about the aftermath of a werewolf attack? A fugitive vampire being harbored by a vengeful teen? (And, incidentally, probably THE BEST DAMNED VAMPIRE STORY I'VE EVER READ!) A suicidal wife whose husband will not let her die? Vile white supremacists flexing their muscles? An Arcti ...more
Adam Nevill
Aug 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The exceptional quality of the writing aside, what most impressed me about this collection was how the uncanny and the supernatural were used to augment stories that a chronicler of everyday tragedy and misfortune, like William Gay for example, often wrote about. At times I felt like I was reading a new approach to horror fiction, and that's a very refreshing prickle to feel across my scalp. There's a fantastic idea at the heart of every story too.

I think my favourite story is the one that is en
...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I'm surprised more of my friends have not read these stories, but perhaps I am more aware of the author because he is somewhat "local" to me. I bought this book after hearing him read a (disturbing, terrifying) excerpt of one of them a few years back but never went back to it. I finally did and was not disappointed. If you like horror with twinges of the fantastical in the midst of mundane life, these are the stories for you. This book won the 2013 Shirley Jackson Award for a single-author colle ...more
Matthew
Jan 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Holy mother of god.

This collection is brilliant. Lyrical and emotionally powerful, North American Lake Monsters is a must read for all fans of speculative fiction. Full review to come.
Paul
Jul 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Nathan Ballingrud's debut collection is just flat out great.

At the most cursory glance, many of the tropes of horror are represented. "Sunbleached" is one of the few vampire stories that has left me frightened and completely unnerved (with Kaaron Warren's "All You Can Do Is Breathe" being another). His devastating novella "The Good Husband" features what could be described as a kept zombie. Werewolves tear through the opening pages of "Wild Acre," a story that I've read and re-read, and will re
...more
Karl
May 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is my firs encounter with reading Mr. Ballingud's work. Yes, the book contains monsters, of all kinds. It's really not easy to describe these stories other than amazingly well written and compulsive reading. These stories are GRIM hurtful and harmful. They reflect the pain that we as people inflict on ourselves and at times on those around us. And they stick with you, you find yourself pondering the impact that they have on you, days later.

All together a masterful collection. Be warned, ha
...more
T.E. Grau
Nov 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
In writing stories that are firmly entrenched in the horror genre, the temptation is always to dance around the human element for a bit before rushing headlong into the supernatural. Glancing at the homo sapiens just long enough to fulfill some literary obligation before full-on ogling the monsters. It's easy to get caught up in such obvious Big H Horror signposts, as those fantastical elements are what drew most of us to the genre to begin with. But that sort of "too much of a good thing" is wh ...more
Justin Steele
May 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
North American Lake Monsters is Nathan Ballingrud's first collection of fiction, and hopefully the first of many more to come.

A good horror story stays with you long after reading it. A great horror story doesn't simply stay with you, it haunts you, and Nathan Ballingrud's fiction does just that. He breathes life into rough, blue-collar characters and places them in some of the best dark fiction being written today. Every single story in this collection is an emotional gut punch. The despair tha
...more
Gavin
Dec 02, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: horror, short-stories
Hmm.

Another collection of well-written short stories by a relatively unknown horror author. Sadly, none of them are really actually scary in the way I hope for from horror, they're scary in that they pit the protagonist against something with which they cannot cope and then track their descent into nothingness and ennui. Often the stories just stop, rather than end as well, which is rather jarring.

It all feels rather mundane for the large part. Spooky-ish quasi-supernatural things will happen bu
...more
DeAnna Knippling
May 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Mysterious and strange short stories.

Totally jealous of this collection of quiet horror stories--even the stories that didn't hit for me were superlative. The stories all have a particular type of ending, though, so if you don't like the first story because of the (mysterious and strange) ending, then you're probably not going to like the rest. "What happened after" is usually hidden inside the rest of the story somewhere, with the ending itself arranged to be as unfinished and disconcerting as
...more
John
Nov 01, 2016 rated it it was ok
2.5 stars overall.
4.5 stars for The Good Husband. Two stars for everything else. Most of the stories in this collection felt like the same idea, done over and over again with different horror/supernatural elements plugged in.
Tim Lebbon
Jan 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One of the best collections I've read in years. Beautifully crafted fiction, stories that'll really affect you and keep you thinking long after you've finished the book.
John
Nov 27, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: review, fiction
Nathan Ballingrud’s first collection gathers eight stories previously published in magazines and themed anthologies – easy to have missed – plus one original (“The Good Husband”). North American Lake Monsters is not a physically demanding book – slim, spare and elegant in appearance, not heavy to the heft – but here appearances are deceptive. Because it is a truly impressive book, one to which attention should be paid. The stories carry (so lightly) a weight of hinterland and incident, of emotio ...more
Hesper
Somewhere on Nathan Ballingrud's computer there must exist a template into which he plugs a handful of variables and the occasional clunky metaphor to create a story. It's probably some thing like this: [insert sad sack human here] and possibly [a second slightly less sad sack human here], beset by [mundane tragedy], who suddenly has an encounter with [insert unexplained supernatural phenomenon here], which is the catalyst for either [a cathartic experience] or [further descent into darkness]. T ...more
Christopher Irvin
Jul 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I don’t think I can praise this collection of stories enough. Ballingrud’s NALM blew me away – from its dark beginnings with, “You Go Where It Takes You,” to, “The Good Husband,” the bizarre and crushing finale, NALM is filled with incredible stories. I met Ballingrud very briefly at Readercon before he had to run off to the Shirley Jackson Awards ceremony (the novelette, “Wild Acre” included in NALM was nominated) and I wish I’d had more time (and already read the book!) to discuss some of the ...more
Sara J. (kefuwa)
Bought this off the Google Play store on a whim after first seeing it on a Book Riot article. And I think that cover and the title also did me in.

I do admit it wasn't exactly what I thought it would be. I kinda expected to be scared silly. But it's not that type of "horror" I guess. More of a feeling of dread - but not dread. That cold chill down your spine like you've forgotten something horribly important dread. Not heavy exactly. Or rather not heavy in the sense that the stories read like sli
...more
Nathan
Nov 01, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: x2016-november
It reminded me of a cross between Close Range and Books of Blood, but I liked both of those better. I listened to most of these stories on Halloween looking for a binge of holiday scares, so I had a agenda. I might have liked this book better if I'd gone in with no expectations.

It was more dark and gritty magical realism than anything else. I thought his description and use of metaphor were strong points. I would have liked more suspense. My big gripe is how similar the stories felt. Different
...more
Tom A.
May 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It’s hard to be disappointed by a Nathan Ballingrud story.

For the past decade, there have been a handful of new writers taking a stab at weird fiction. Among them, Nathan Ballingrud is the one who is capable of powerfully connecting with the reader emotionally as well as viscerally. Yes, there are other accomplished writers like Laird Barron or Simon Strantzas, but the works produced by them are often cold and unfeeling. (especially Barron) This is why Ballingrud’s work stands out: it is engagin
...more
Rebecka
At 73%, I'm giving up. There was perhaps half of two stories that were good in this collection, but the extreme mediocrity of the rest just annoyed me so much I can't give it any more than one star. This was not at all what I expected. There's nothing eerie, creepy or frightening here. Just "weird" stories that miss the mark.

EDIT: went back & read the last story after reading some reviews. It's the only actually good one!
Bogdan
There is a big hype about the stories of this writer, but for me, this volume wasn`t such a great venture.
There are some nice ideas, the writing was ok, but the stories didn`t had a clear ending. All of them are about contemplating something. Maybe it`s a new wave, an original way to make the writing fresh, but overall, and in short words, I`m not a big fan of it.
I`m thinking that two stars it`s a good and fortunate choice for this peculiar book.
...more
Ben Peek
Aug 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Nathan Ballingrud's first collection, North American Lake Monsters, is a slim, mediative volume of dark fiction.

I first became aware of Ballingrud's fiction in a piece entitled 'You Go Where It Takes You,' the story of a single mother dealing with the difficulty of direction and success in life and job, and the man she meets, while on shift in a diner. I always remembered it for its pathos, its elegance, its very wise understanding on the people within it, and the understated, very real horror t
...more
Don
Aug 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Plain and simple, if this collection doesn't win the Shirley Jackson Award or the World Fantasy Award for 2013, there really is no f**ing justice in the world.

I hung on every word in this collection. I was enthralled by every story, something I haven't felt since reading M. Rickert's Map of Dreams. Ballingrud takes some rather standard horror tropes and gives the readers more palpable and disturbing reasons to fear them. In a lot of stories, the horror/speculative element serves as a possible pa
...more
Mindi
May 19, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fantastic collection of weird horror fiction short stories.

Each story contains a small supernatural element, but for the most part, it's the normal everyday occurrences in the character's lives that are the most disturbing. Everyone in the collection is in a desperate situation, and it's a mix of real life human tragedy with just a touch of horror that works so well. Most of the stories offer no real resolution, but are left to the reader's interpretation, so don't expect any tidy endi
...more
Kevin Fanning
Nov 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Really liked these, a lot, a lot. The first story, about a single mom who meets a man with something scary in the trunk of his stolen car, is HECTIC.

The title story, about a recently-released convict vacationing with his family felt like it was going to be a little too on the nose but then it ended up in such a lovely place, it was one of my favorites.

Other favorites: The Way Station, about a homeless Katrina survivor who still literally carries his city around inside him, and The Good Husband
...more
Teodor
Nov 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Horrific but humane. The instant parallels? Clive Barker and Annie Proulx. The terror comes after Ballingrud has hooked you onto the fates of his characters, so that you feel pity for them all the way. There's is still, however, a catharsis at the end of each story, though the sheer grit of the setting and characters – Ballingrud largely focuses on a marginalised, neglected American underclass - will leave you wanting to take a shower after each story. But it's telling that empathy is eked out o ...more
Helen Marshall
Aug 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best-2013
Highly recommended. Nathan Ballingrud's debut collection uses complex characters and startlingly beautiful language to reinvent the horror genre. In Ballingrud's grim landscapes we encounter the supernatural as a chink in the human: sometimes terrifying, sometimes marvelous, but always captivating. His stories reward repeated reading.
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I'm the author of North American Lake Monsters: stories, coming from Small Beer Press in July 2013. I'm currently at work on my first novel and several more short stories. I live with my daughter in Asheville, NC.
“She’s like a thousand different people right now, all waiting to be, and every time she makes a choice, one of those people goes away forever. Until finally you run out of choices and you are whoever you are.” 8 likes
“He imagined the room bathed in blood, himself striding through it, a raven amongst the carcasses. Strutting like any carrion king.” 5 likes
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