Rating: 5 out of 5
I’ll have to try to unpack why Christine Morgan’s Lakehouse Infernal is one of my favorite books of the year-so-far when I’ve read so many awesome books already. Apparently the world is based on some books by author Ed Lee, who gave Ms. Morgan permission to use the background from those books in this one. She really made it her own, though–you won’t feel like you’re missing anything if you haven’t read Mr. Lee’s books (I haven’t), although she mentions that there are a number of Easter eggs for those who have.
Content note right up front: this is bloody horror. There are bodily fluids, torture, graphic death scenes, graphic rape (male-on-male), sexual assault (female-on-male), people getting ripped apart, mutations, graphic sex… uh, I’m pretty sure I’m missing things, but you get the gist. If you have a weak stomach this just isn’t the book for you. I realize I don’t often review “extreme horror,” but I don’t mind it–I just want all of the gore to have a purpose in the story, and not to feel thrown in for its own sake. In Lakehouse Infernal, it definitely feels like the content matters to the story.
Some creatures in Hell decide to swap a lake of filth (6 billion gallons) in Hell with a lake of fresh water in the real world. Fresh water is exceedingly rare down there. They have to swap an equal amount in order to make the magic work, and a small tourist town ends up with a lake of pure, disgusting evil in their midst. Since one person on Earth got caught up in the swap, one person from the other side did as well: former Roman soldier Favius. While Favius decides to help arrange for Hell to come to Earth in a much bigger way, various groups of people associated with the region have some truly wild times.
We see some brief bits from when the crossover happened, but the story mostly concentrates on a time years later when the government just keeps it all behind a wall and doesn’t let much of anyone in or out. A pilot named Gregory Nachtwald crashes near the lake and discovers his guardian angel is very much real–and can hopefully get him out beyond the wall. College students Trevor and Chelsea (twins) and their friends Andy, Madison, and Kayla come to visit Trevor and Chelsea’s family lakehouse, because frankly they don’t believe the stories of what goes on behind the wall, and Chelsea is simply stubborn when it starts to appear that she’s wrong. A mother and her children (Sharon, Billy, and Sherri) arrived just before the lake was swapped, and now they’ve learned to fit in surprisingly well. June is on a church bus with other members of her church (including her obnoxious mother), all of whom are planning on trying to fight the evil within the wall. June, for her part, is an unattractive virgin “spinster” who frankly just wants to get laid, but she discovers she’s got a knack with a shotgun. There are also a bunch of locals, largely rednecks, who keep things hopping! They’ve all survived by becoming a part of the new order of things. People have been mutated. Some have gained powers (warlocks). Others have figured out how to power gadgets with “agonicity” (the pain of human suffering) instead of electricity. There’s a semi-famous horror writer, and several people who’ve remained behind in Favius’s service while he deals with the military beyond the wall.
Some of the concepts in here are just wonderful. The power the lake gives off changes flora and fauna in weird and wild ways. When someone dies near the Lake, their soul is “subcarnated” into a new being, with some of their memories intact. It could be something powerful and dire, or it could be something as meaningless and mindless as a clam in the lake. The government wants Favius, who’s technically a prisoner, to explain how his golems work so they can create their own. He’s wily, though, and is happy to appear to help them while furthering his own agenda.
None of these characters are wonderful people! Well maybe Madison. Chelsea and Trevor have their own kinks and personality issues. Andy puts his desire to get high above the welfare of his friends. Most of the residents will happily use anyone who manages to get in from the outside to create agonicity to power their refrigerators and so on. Some people they come to accept, however. June is so desperate to get laid she practically attacks one of the “brothers” with her on the church trip, but I think you’ll find that she’s something more than just a stereotypical desperate woman. She really comes into her own once she starts going up against the bad guys.
The author says that there are Easter eggs for folks who’ve read Ed Lee’s books; obviously I didn’t notice them because I haven’t read his books (although I did catch his cameo!), but I can say that they must have been integrated well because I don’t remember anything weird ripping me out of the story. There are also some great pop-cultural Easter eggs.
I actually enjoyed the wordy, descriptive narrative intro that went on for a little while. It introduced a little bit of the background of Favius and Hell before the lake got swapped. It started the mood off well.
An itty-bitty problem I had, which isn’t even the author’s fault, is that any time I read about monsters or animals with disturbingly human faces, I picture truly awful CGI. But that’s due to watching shows that have tried to do this with special effects and failed miserably to make it anything other than ridiculous. Like I said, not the author’s fault. The only other thing I wasn’t fond of was the volume of cattiness between many of the female characters.
I should note that this is most definitely a humor/horror book, and it can get pretty damn entertaining at times! I asked the author whether there was a sequel or not, and apparently she’s working on one right now!