Dead Water (Redhook, June 13, 2023). Cover design by kid-ethic
C. A. Fletcher is a Scottish writer, and the author of the popular post-apocalyptic novel A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World. I’m unfamiliar with his work, but I decided to pick up his latest when it was released in paperback in June.
Dead Water is described as ‘Folk Horror,’ which I think means it’s a tale of horrible stuff that happens to people who live in the country. As someone who’s tired of all the terrible stories told about my home town of Chicago, this has immediate appeal to me. It’s the story of a waterborne pathogen that afflicts a remote Scottish Isle, and the dark secrets the rapidly-spreading plague uncovers. The Library Ladies calls it “a creeping, dread-filled story,” and Ancillary Review of Books says that “horror fans will enjoy the misty, desolate atmosphere interspersed with moments of genuine fear… individual scenes are paced to perfection.”
Here’s a excerpt from the thoughtful review by Bren Ram at Ancillary Review of Books.
C. A. Fletcher’s Dead Water is the kind of novel that, were it even slightly less confident in its characters, could have easily slipped into the dull tropes of the classic survival story. A remote island community, an ancient curse, a plucky group banding together to make their way through the night — all threaten to deliver a tale as old as time, and as tired. The premise — a watery plague slowly overtaking a small Scottish island — suggests an action-heavy zombie thriller of the kind we’ve seen proliferate over the last decade leading up to (and even throughout) the coronavirus pandemic. Luckily, though, this is not that kind of story.
Instead, it’s the kind of story where atmosphere, setting, and character take center stage. The characters, in particular, stand out: Dead Water’s cast is as intimately sketched as it is refreshingly unique… Interspersed between the chapters that take place in the present day are short, myth-like vignettes describing the centuries-past journey of a Viking out of the desert and back to his northern homeland….
While SFF readers might feel frustrated at the rushed pacing of the final chapters and the drag leading up to it, horror fans will enjoy the misty, desolate atmosphere interspersed with moments of genuine fear and stomach-turning gore. There are a couple of jump scares that actually feel effective, a rare feat for a novel. And, while the pacing of the novel as a whole feels uneven, the individual scenes are paced to perfection.
Dead Water was published in hardcover on July 19, 2022, and reprinted in trade paperback by Redhook on June 13, 2023. It is 501 pages, priced at $18.99 in trade paperback and $9.99 in digital formats. The cover design is by kid-ethic.
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