I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.UGLY LITTLE THINGS by Todd Keisling
Published by Crystal Lake Publishing on September 15, 2017
Genres: Cosmic Horror, Crime/Serial Killer, Dark Fiction, Fiction, Horror, Lovecraftian, Occult & Supernatural, Psychological Horror, Weird Tales
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THIS IS GOING TO HURT.
The eleven stories in Ugly Little Things explore the depths of human suffering and ugliness, charting a course to the dark, horrific heart of the human condition. The terrors of everyday existence are laid bare in this eerie collection of short fiction from the twisted mind of Todd Keisling, author of the critically-acclaimed novels A Life Transparent and The Liminal Man.
Travel between the highways of America in “The Otherland Express,” where a tribe of the forsaken and forlorn meet to exchange identities. Witness the cold vacuum of space manifest in the flesh in “The Darkness Between Dead Stars.” Step into the scrub of rural Arizona and join Karen Singleton’s struggle to save her husband from a cult of religious fanatics in “When Karen Met Her Mountain.” Visit the small town of Dalton in “The Harbinger” and join Felix Proust as he uncovers the vile secrets rooted at the heart of Dalton Dollworks. And in the critically-acclaimed novella “The Final Reconciliation,” learn the horrifying truth behind the demise of the rock band The Yellow Kings.
With an introduction by Bram Stoker Award-winner Mercedes M. Yardley and illustrations by Luke Spooner, Ugly Little Things will be your atlas, guiding you along a lonely road of sorrow, loss, and regret. This is going to hurt—and you’re going to like it.
UGLY LITTLE THINGS: Collected Horrors, is a collection of eleven stories–including one novella–written by Todd Keisling.
The aspect I found most impressing in this collection was by far the versatility Keisling shows with his stories. In many single-author collections, I find a certain “style” emerges after reading a number of tales. In the setup of UGLY LITTLE THINGS, however, this had not been the case. The situation, point-of-view, and even the prevailing atmosphere differ so widely in each selection, that it’s difficult to believe one person is behind all of these. The one constant being that Keisling has the ability to suck the reader right into a story–no matter what the subject–and leave them stranded there until the final page.
These tales varied in length, as much as they varied in theme. However, that isn’t to assume that the shorter works had less of an impact than the longer ones. The very first story in this collection, “A Man in Your Garden”, was extremely effective at conveying the sense of confusion and fearful uncertainty the narrator goes through–all in just a few pages.
“. . . This impossible phantom, this formless beast, it wants you to come outside. To come and play . . .”
Rather than go into the details of every story–I’ll leave that pleasure to the individual readers–I’ll just highlight a few of my personal favorites.
“Radio Free Nowhere” is one of those that starts out so simply, that you don’t even sense the nature of the horror until it’s already upon you. (I loved that last line!)
“The Otherland Express”: This tale was one that hit me emotionally right from the start. However, as with so many of Keisling’s stories, it morphed into something so unusual and unique that I never saw it coming. The descriptions throughout painted concrete images firmly in my mind as I read through it.
“. . . Heartache was something he couldn’t shed, something he couldn’t throw away. Can anyone?”
“The Harbinger”: A story centered around a reporter sent to interview the woman who made a name for her small town, with a unique brand of ‘time-out’ dolls. Creepy dolls that look like children . . . besides a clown, is there anything more menacing?
“. . . little bundles of putrescent joy . . .”
“The Darkness Between Dead Stars”: This particular story was told from a unique “unbiased” point-of-view, and I felt it really helped convey a sinister, mounting dread to the reader, without the need to go into long, detailed descriptions. Maxwell Foster is a citizen chosen–from among many volunteers–to embark on a Deep Space Shuttle to Mars. There isn’t much I can say without giving everything away here, so I’ll just add that you do NOT want to skip over this one!
“When Karen Met Her Mountain”: is my absolute favorite here, aside from the novella. Karen is the “narrator”, and she is unquestionably perfect in this role. She is a loving wife, brought up by her pious, yet adoring Father. The story begins with her thoughts as her husband drives them back from her Father’s funeral. The events and pacing in this selection couldn’t have been any more ideal, in my opinion. Seeing things through Karen’s eyes makes all the difference here.
“. . . What would you do when you met your mountain?”
“I’ll climb over it if I have to, Daddy . . .”
The last piece in this collection is the novella, “The Final Reconciliation”. I first read this individual story earlier this year. As of this review (mid-September), I still believe it will have a place in my “Top Reads of 2017” list. Since I’ve already written a full review on this title, alone, I’ll simply say that the blending of an aging Rocker, combined with elements from Robert W. Chambers’, “The King in Yellow”, merge to form a “masterpiece” all of Keisling’s own. This is a story that will hold you spellbound from first to last page.
Overall, I can honestly say that there was not a single story here that I didn’t like, if not outright love. Todd Keisling is a name I will be watching out for in the future. His collection UGLY LITTLE THINGS is a book that I definitely want showcased on my bookshelves.