I’m cognizant of the fact that I haven’t reviewed a novel positively in quite some time. Truly, I’m not a negative person, though if you’ve read my posts on HNR you could rightly accuse me of having a rather bleak outlook on life.
My strategy for reviewing novels here is as follows: I search for small press or self-published authors with good review stats and hope for the best. I’d rather not chuck yet another glowing assessment of, say, Stephen King’s work into the fray. We all know who the good ones are.
Imagine my pain, then, when I finished Green Lake by S.K. Epperson. She isn’t a small time writer, nor is she a big name, though her work has been published by outfits like St. Martin’s Press and Dutton. I expected better. My mistake.
Ostensibly a horror novel but also pushed as a thriller, Green Lake is neither. Though it popped up on Amazon when I entered ‘horror’ into the search field, there’s nothing scary about it, unless you have a fear of awful dialogue.
Madeleine, our protagonist, is a bit of a douchebag. But Epperson doesn’t let us gather this information naturally from the character, choosing instead to have others bluntly point it out, like in this clunker from Madeleine’s sister: “Someone needed to tell you just how hard you are on people. You love invincibility, but no one is invincible, Madeleine, no one.”
Similarly, while Madeleine is chasing Eris – our heroic rent-a-cop – she can’t help but see through his harsh, stoic shell. She can tell he’s a good man. And thus, she tells him: “I think you’re a good man.”
There’s no chemistry between these two – though they do end up fucking, because of course – but Epperson tries to liven things up with a bit of racial tension. Eris is Native-American and has his problems with the white man. Madeleine is an anthropologist specializing in Native-American history, but she has her issues as well, seeing as how she once got gang raped with hot peppers by a couple of Sioux teenagers.
Allow me to diverge for a moment: Rape is never funny. Unless it’s done to a fictional character with hot peppers in a bad novel.
I could go on about authors jamming rape scenes into their work for cheap emotional points – and thus trivializing an act of unspeakable evil and violence – but we’ll save that one for another time.
I stated earlier that Epperson also markets this as a thriller. It is not. A proper thriller requires momentum. Green Lake has none. The bulk of the first half is spent with Madeleine and Eris ruminating on how the other is an unlikable dick (though, I repeat, they still fuck for some reason), with a dead child thrown in there somewhere, with all the emotional punch of Homer Simpson’s left jab.