Archive for September, 2015

uglylittlethings

BOOK INFO

Length: 150 Pages

Publisher: Precipice Books

Release Date: February 3, 2015

Review copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review

Todd Keisling’s Ugly Little Things – Volume 1 collects the first four short stories that make up Keisling’s Ugly Little Things universe, an ongoing title and umbrella for his short fiction. I have been finding myself drawn more and more to the short story format because it is a great vehicle for horror fiction. I still love plopping down on the couch and starting a novel, but it is always interesting to see how various authors handle the constraints of the short story to craft punchy tales.

“Radio Free Nowhere” kicks off the collection and introduces readers to the young couple Conrad and Ashley. They are driving through the mountains through “Radio Free Nowhere”, one of those little patches of land where it seems like nothing but wilderness and the radio cuts in and out, the GPS doesn’t work and it feels like you are totally cut off from civilization. They find a lone gas station and stop for gas and directions. It is here, while pumping gas, Ashley first hears the music. When she heads inside she meets an attendant who conjures up images of that guy in horror movies who always tries to warn people coming into the secluded town of dangers and immediately becomes the first person you suspect of being involved. He is wearing ear plugs for seemingly no reason, but tells Ashley she will need them too and warns her the music she hears may make her do crazy things. She finds herself enthralled by the hypnotic music and the attendant takes her silence as a refusal his help and issues a final unnerving warning. Ashley follows the music and when she discovers what it is, readers are treated to a truly creepy scene that kind of reminded me a bit of a Twilight Zone episode.

“When Karen Met Her Mountain” follows a woman named Karen who finds herself battling depression when she loses her dad and then suffers a miscarriage. It is hinted that she may have addiction problems. Her and her husband are on their way to the funeral when they are attacked in the desert by religious fanatics. She “hears” her father offer her advice as she tries to survive the hellish encounter. There are session notes interspersed throughout that are a nice touch that shows how depressed and down on herself Karen felt. Stranded in the desert with no way to reach out for help, Karen relies on her animalistic need for survival and begins plotting her revenge. This is a highly thrilling story about overcoming loss and finding inner strength and offers plenty of exciting twists throughout the story.

“Saving Granny From The Devil” has some emotionally powerful scenes early in the story. While reading this story, I couldn’t help but think of one of my favorite short stories of all-time, John F.D. Taff’s “What Becomes God”. A visceral and emotionally engaging story, this is definitely one of the standouts from the collection. This is the perfect blend of the sort of horrible things we go through in real life and the supernatural. It is a semi-autobiographical tale and the honesty Keisling shows here made this my favorite story of the collection.

“The Harbinger” – I was never really terribly afraid of dolls or other inanimate objects growing up, but I do remember the first fiction character that really scared me was Slappy the Dummy from the Goosebumps series. Those books are marketed towards younger readers so the things he does is rather tame by horror standards, but man, those stories really terrified me as a young reader. Keisling tapped into my childhood fears in this creepy as hell story about a town on its last legs and their creepy obsession with a doll factory that seems to be the town’s only hope of survival.

I must applaud Keisling for the creation of the Ugly Little Things universe. The stories contained within this first volume all have a distinct voice and aren’t connected in a literal way, but Keisling’s decision to group them together as the “ugly little things” that lurk in his imagination is an effective choice. While they are all distinct and hit on different emotions, they piece together perfectly.

What made me fall in love with this collection was the variety of the stories and the emotional impact a few of them had on me. While I enjoy a straightforward horror story, the ones that really leave a lasting impact for me are the ones that explore more complex emotions and situations. These stories can be terrifying in their own right, but they also stir up other emotions. Keisling utilizes that ability to the max with stories like “When Karen Met Her Mountain” and “Saving Granny From The Devil”. These are engaging stories full of horror thrills and yet they still explore the depths of human nature and add a complex element to his works.

The short story format has been gaining popularity with a vengeance and there have been an absolute wealth of great ones released recently. Keisling’s Ugly Little Things is one of those standouts and deserves to be added to any horror fans collection. As of this review, there has been two more entries in the Ugly Little Things universe, “The Other Land Express” and “House of Nettle and Thorn”. After reading Ugly Little Things -Volume One, I am definitely looking forward to reading these! Keisling is an amazing talent and if you are into horror, you absolutely need to purchase this collection. Huge, huge fan and I can’t wait to see what other “Ugly Little Things” this author has in store for readers!

Rating: 4.5/5

LINKS

Todd Keisling Official Website

Precipice Books Official Website

Purchase Ugly Little Things on Amazon