I’m a sucker for haunted town stories and a huge Silent Hill fanboy so I was expecting that sort of thing from Marc Vale’s short story collection All Roads Lead to Blue Lake. Turns out, that isn’t quite what it is. Many of the stories aren’t horror, they are supernatural. This isn’t a problem and a rather fine distinction that took me a bit of time to get used to.
There are six stories: Silhouettes, Live at Pappy’s Grill House, The Phoenix and The Turtle, Irma, Metric Modulation, and Teacher of the Year. The stories are character driven small town stories with subtle supernatural elements that come to the forefront during the conclusion. While interconnected by specific physical landmarks such as Pappy’s Grill House and a few characters, they are largely stand alone. The stories are more united by tone than by plot.
Many of the POV characters are very well written and have incredibly strong voices, both in terms of the writing and how Marc reads them. This especially evident in Silhouettes, Irma, and Metric Modulation.
Most of the stories feature some very horrific moments with very surprising developments. What drives this book, however, are the strong core characters- especially when they are in conflict.
The final story I, as a teacher, have mixed feelings about but that goes into my general opinions on writing about teaching and education. The story, if nothing else, gets an excellent handle on the problems facing education that come from within the schools themselves. It has a heartwarming ending.
This collection is at it’s best when either commenting on interpersonal issues that trouble society- my favorite part is probably the poor treatment given to a shop girl by a snobbish wealthy woman- and when the strongly developed characters come into conflict.
The collection also does eerie and bizarre very well- from strange sounds coming from bizarre places to well known and trusted people acting in alien ways.
I’d like to have seen more of Blue Lake itself and gotten a greater sense of the local culture of the town. That may come if Marc writes more of these stories. For now, you’re left with a sense with a strong sense of the individuals who live in and around the town and the kind of lives they lead- both normal and supernatural.
Dance Monkey Dan does the music and it is very well done and almost always works perfectly with the story- especially in the final moments of the final episode. I believe Marc plays the instruments but I don’t know.
I enjoyed it immensely, especially Silhouettes, Irma, and Metric Modulation. Marc has put together an enjoyable package and I look forward to seeing more of his work.
You can find Marc Vale’s All Roads Lead To Blue Lake on Podiobooks here: http://www.podiobooks.com/title/all-roads-lead-to-blue-lake/