Ramsey Campbell is considered a modern master of horror, which raises expectations for a book like this. Unfortunately, he does not deliver. Creatures of the Pool shows the problem with the combination of first-person perspective and close narrative distance. The main character, Gavin, is a history buff and knows every little detail about Liverpool. This bleeds over into the narrative. Too often, the history of Liverpool becomes the focus of chapters, instead of Gavin’s quest to find his father and mother. The history stories are too detailed and steal attention from the actual plot.
And what plot is there? Not much, sadly. Gavin is an unlikeable protagonist, a man who lacks perspective and control of his emotions. I found it difficult to believe that he would freak the hell out after his father did not return home by midnight. His father, while eccentric, is an adult. Midnight? Teenagers stay out later than that. Gavin argues with just about everyone in the book. He insults police officers, coworkers, librarians, theater performers, his girlfriend. He seems to think he’s always right and he almost never is. Because the reader is trapped with him for the entire narrative, this grates and detracts from the story. Moreover, he seems incapable of action. Sure, he can argue with people all he wants but he never really sets out to find his parents. He should have started looking in the tunnels by page 140. He never entered until the end of the book.
Because of this lack of action, Creatures of the Pool plods along. The pace is damn slow, never really builds until the final 50 pages, and the climax doesn’t pay off. In fact, the plot is predictable. Nothing kills suspense and a horror novel quite like predictability. And because the protagonist is such an annoying idiot, I did not care what happened to him.
The book did not offer much except for atmosphere and that’s just not enough. Not for 350 pages. While Ramsey Campbell is considered a master of horror, avoid this book. It’s a waste of money and time.
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