|BOY, DID I love this! A fantastic nod to 80s slasher movies, Long Night at Lake Never is about a small group of queer youth forced to endure treatment at a cult-like Conversion Therapy camp nestled deep in the woods of buttf#ck nowhere by “ex-gay” religious cretins. Oh ya, and a killer is stalking everyone–a killer with a burning need for blood-soaked vengeance!
Eric David Roman’s writing is smooth and imaginative, perfectly evoking the landscape and tension of a Friday the 13th film. But this novel is so much more than straight (no pun intended) horror. While the emotional and physical tortures are visceral, fully inhabiting the text, the author’s use of wit and humour shines through. And this is especially seen within the camaraderie among these gay youths as they willfully oppose their adversaries. This banter does more than “lighten the mood.” It creates an accessible narrative without sacrificing the seriousness of such a topic as conversion therapy. The novel encapsulates the horror/comedy genre seamlessly. The outrageous murders, brilliant innuendoes and fun, campy dialogue do not negate or water down the underlying message of LGBTQ rights. Horror, but make it fabulously gay with a social conscience.
While there are many extraordinarily well-written characters in this book, my favourite is our hero Tyler Wills. Having Tyler’s outing happen before the novel begins, before coming to the camp, the author gives the reader a powerful jumping-off platform of transparency and authenticity, allowing for a unique and long-needed type of young queer protagonist. Tyler’s open, unbridled acceptance of his gayness and forthright personality provides him with the tools to escape the tropey confines of the typically closeted Byronic hero, rebellious yet still brooding around with a dark secret. A figure that we get too often with queer stories involving teenagers. Instead, we have the outspoken modern-day love child of Harvey Milk and Ellen Ripley.
Tyler knows who he is and accepts it; he also knows his enemy. He is courageous, prepared, ready and willing to fight back, especially with words. Yes, we get sassy comebacks, as expected and desired, but Tyler’s wicked intelligence and ability to combat his antagonists by turning their selective knowledge of the Bible against them shows his courage and resiliency. You root for this kid to get out of this place and live happily ever after with a romantic interest. And yes, there’s a hunky romantic interest for Tyler!
Long Night at Lake Never is a suspense-laden, gore-filled horror comedy that is not afraid to throw in a social message or two. I was both educated and entertained by Eric David Roman’s work, but most importantly, I was inspired. I cannot recommend this novel highly enough to all readers, not just horror fans and the LGBTQ community.