Reservoir Gods by Brian Knight
Reviewed by Karl Wolff
Dworshak was a body of water created by the Clearwater River.
The dammed river created the reservoir that powers the town of Orofino while flooding a previously abandoned town and leaving behind tales of desecrated Indian burial grounds. Amid this stew of history, legend and hearsay, Knight brings us a “Big Fish” tale.
Remember the one that got away? Reservoir Gods is one of those stories.
The story centers on the lives of various individuals around Dworshak. There is Commissioner Grant Lang, who enjoys the outdoors, camping with his underlings, and the occasional 14-year-old girl. He’s also a bit of a sociopath. There’s the Garbage Man, tasked with getting rid of the town’s more unseemly problems. There’s Roger Burnham, scuba-diving the reservoir’s murky depths as something of an amateur local historian. He wants to prove that there was a town beneath the waters. Add an elderly gentleman, a former drug dealer who chummed around with the local militia, and a pontoon boat dubbed the Great Pumpkin, and you have the set-up for a stupendous tale of monstrous marine life.
A freak storm turns into a massive tornado and puts everyone in crisis mode. While the people scramble for safety, animals freak out and stampede out of the forest. All this action goes unnoticed by Roger, poking around the ruins of the lost town. The abandoned town isn’t the only thing he discovers. A catfish the size of a school bus notices Roger and craves him as a delightful little treat. Unfortunately, if he heads up from the depths too fast he’ll get the bends.
The large catfish is not alone. Other giants lurk in the dark, awakened by the storm. Slow swimmers meet the razor-sharp teeth of Pikezilla, a massive pike, although not nearly as massive as the huge sturgeon that swims beneath the reservoir like a scaly-backed dragon.
Reservoir Gods works as a believable horror-action story because the giant creatures brush the edge of plausibility. One can easily find pictures of giant catfish and giant sturgeon. In the Mekong Delta, some species of catfish grow anywhere from six to ten feet long. Prior to overfishing, sturgeon could easily be twenty feet long or more. On islands like Madagascar, there’s a biological phenomenon called “island gigantism.” The isolation allows the species to grow much larger than their mainland relatives do. (There is a related biological phenomenon called “deep-sea gigantism.”) Couple this biological phenomenon with documentary evidence of large fish species and urban legends about man-eating catfish and you have a monster fish story planted within the minds of the readers. Knight just tweaked things a little. Instead of a ten-foot catfish, he makes the thing the size of a school bus.
Reservoir Gods is a short, fun read, full of action, horrific monster fish, and a motley gang of people just trying to get out alive.