15096230Mannheim Rex
Robert Pobi
Simon & Schuster Canada
May 17, 2016
Reviewed by Josh Black

As much as I enjoy the subtlety of quiet horror and the twisted allure of psychological head-trips, sometimes I just want to read about a big-ass monster tearing things up. When Mannheim Rex showed up in my mailbox it looked like a big beach read, the kind of story for which you just check your brain at the door, sit back and enjoy for enjoyment’s sake. As it turns out, that’s pretty much what it is, with a few setbacks along the way.

Gavin Corlie is a highly successful horror writer who finds himself in the grip of real-life horror after the sudden, brutal death of his wife. Broken down from sorrow and regret, he’s drowning himself in alcohol and skirting the edges of suicide. The first drunken scene with Gavin begins with him reading condolence cards and culminates hilariously in “a spectacular explosion of whatever it was they used to fill taxidermied crocodiles with in the nineteenth century”. He quite sensibly comes to the conclusion that he needs to get the hell out of the city and ends up moving to a house on Lake Caldasac on the edge of a small New York Community called New Mannheim.

As he settles into his new home, Gavin ends up befriending a terminally ill boy named Finn, and Finn’s doctor, Laurel. He also comes to realize that something isn’t quite right on Lake Caldasac. More specifically in Lake Caldasac. There’s something big in there, it’s been there for a long time, and it’s hungry. Naturally Gavin and Finn take it upon themselves to rid the lake of this scourge once and for all.

The creature scenes are satisfying enough, but they’re few and far between. The bulk of the novel details the friendship between Gavin and Finn, and the developing relationship between Gavin and Laurel. Both of these are complicated by Xavier Pope, New Mannheim’s utterly psychotic, sex-and-murder-crazed sheriff.

Much of the novel reads like a 50s creature feature B-movie — leisurely pacing, awkward dialogue and all. Throw in some plot points that come together far too conveniently and you’ve either got a recipe for disaster or greatness, depending on how much you’re into this kind of thing. Although it dragged in a couple of places, I found myself entertained more often than not. Once in a while a passage would surprise me with its emotional impact, particularly those that go into the specifics of Finn’s illness, but it’s mostly silly, MST3K-style goodness. If you’re looking for a creature fix or a good accompaniment to a waterside vacation, Mannheim Rex will work swimmingly.

About Josh Black

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