Short Take: “The Land Below,” William Meikle

Rating: 5 out of 5

In William Meikle’s horror/adventure novella The Land Below, ex-military man Daniel Garland gets talked into going caving with Ed and Thomas Ellington, as their guard. Ed is looking for a lost treasure in Austria, left by the Teutonic Knights. Local shepherd Stefan and his dog, Elsa, discover the trio at the entrance to the caves and decides to come along to help out. (He doesn’t know about the treasure–he’s just afraid that something might eat the explorers.) When the group takes an inadvertent waterfall ride Tommy is injured, and the whole group finds themselves face-to-face with a dangerous underground predator.

This is kind of a by-the-numbers cave-dwelling monster story, but then that’s why I picked up this book. That was exactly what I was looking for, and Meikle always delivers with fun, engaging stories. Whether I’m reading a monster story or a cosmic horror story (or a fusion of the two), I always know I’ll enjoy and be satisfied by his work.

The trio didn’t pack a whole lot because they didn’t expect to go far, so this isn’t a novel’s worth of exploration. They meet several nasty monsters, find out the truth of the treasure, and their lives are changed forever. Daniel and Stefan in particular were interesting characters, each with a sort of dependable solidity to them. Also Elsa brought a bit of joy to the page. There’s creative problem-solving, interesting discoveries, and, well, perhaps some unfortunate actions taken. This is a fun short read!

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