“Ex Libris The Eyes of Madness, simple reviews from a simple reader…”
Zakk reviews Ugly Little Things: Collected Horrors by Todd Keisling, 287 pages published by Crystal Lake Publishing, September 6, 2017.
“I was eight years old when I first met the Devil, although I didn’t recognize him at the time. I thought he was my friend back then, but that’s not quite true.”
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.
““No two are the same,’ Jerry said, his eyes enormous and bulging behind his thick glass lenses. He stood the doll back in the corner. ‘They say Miss Maggie tailors them herself out of her dreams. And Noah, well, she made him just for me after I lost my son some years ago. She even named the doll after him, God bless her soul.'”
It started with Radio Free Nowhere, my bibliophile affair with the world of Todd Keisling’s Ugly Little Things. This was back in March of 2014. Early on in my endeavor of book reviewing, long before the blog was conceived when I was slumming it with the boys in The Mouths of Madness Podcastshow (R.I.P.). At that point there were four individual releases that I read in quick succession after the first taste ignited a particular hunger, and each story seemed to tap into a personal emotion or primal fear. When Karen Met Her Mountain, a viscous bloodletting of a tale, summoned the horrors of what normal folks are capable of. Saving Granny from the Devil, with a very charming lead evil, reminded me of my relationship with my own grandmother. The Harbinger conjured up my (everyone’s?) primal fear of dolls.
The following year, 2015, saw the addition of two more stories to the singles line-up. The Other Land Express, a tale of the horrors of trying to find your place in the world, and one of my personal favorite, The House of Nettle and Thorn, a fun piece with the vibe of an 80’s Tales from the Crypt episode. A couple of chilling new-to-me pieces, A Man in your Garden & Show Me Where the Waters Fill your Grave along with the previously read and still amazing Human Resources round out the line up. But the last story, the curtain call to Ugly Little Things is the one that cements Mr. Keisling’s place in the upper echelon of the current horror scene. The Final Reconciliation.
With The Final Reconciliation Todd has crafted, nay, conjured a tale so rich and so fluid that I couldn’t help but to be at its mercy. 100ish pages of fighting my way to the front row, 100ish pages of putting my lighter in the air. 100ish pages of me chanting the band’s name until I’m horse. It feels less of a story and more of an event. The band feels real The dynamic, honest. The interloper, electric. The lore, thick and haunting.
All of the stories in Ugly Little Things have an overwhelming visual quality about them, every one could absolutely be a cinematic masterpiece and they all played as such in my head. All due to the dimension and tangibility Mr. Keisling has granted these characters, these locations, these circumstances. It’s safe to say that I am a fan of Todd Keisling, I read his books not for business but for pleasure. Hopefully this isn’t the final word on the Ugly Little Things series as I am fully invested in anything that may be coming down the pipeline and I will gladly pay with my sleep. For what better way is there to spend a few hours in the dark, more than likely with all four appendages tucked safely under a tight blanket (and possibly a night light), than with some truly enjoyable tales that are assured to linger in your brain pan.
“Other interviewers have come to me over the years to ask what it was like recording the album, if there was ever any hint that something was ‘off’ during the process. All of them assumed what happened was part of Johnny’s ‘master plan’, that he actually orchestrated everything that occurred that night at our final show as fulfillment of some occult ritual. Which, in all fairness, is a legitimate assumption. How else could you rationalize such a tragedy? The media’s always looking for a devil to take the blame.”
Dark, dirty, captivating and nasty, I had a great time playing with these Ugly Little Things. I’d call this a must read horror collection, jump into it sooner rather than later.
Entertainment Value (Because the kids like numbers)
A very enthusiastic 5/ 5
Zakk is a big dumb animal!
**Note: I had previously purchased some of the stories in their original, stand alone releases as well as a Limited Hardcover collected release. This updated release I received as a complimentary copy from the author and/ or publisher and I am reviewing it voluntarily. These are my honest, unbiased feelings. I did not receive any sort of compensation.
An Ugly Little Trailer
TODD KEISLING is the author of A Life Transparent, The Liminal Man (a 2013 Indie Book Award Finalist), and the critically-acclaimed novella, The Final Reconciliation. He lives somewhere in the wilds of Pennsylvania with his wife, son, and trio of unruly cats.
Praise for Todd and Ugly Little Things
“Todd Keisling is a born storyteller, drawing the reader into artfully constructed narratives that scout the darker end of the literary spectrum with skill and bravado. A pleasure to read, his stories linger well after the last page has been turned. Excellent stuff.” – John Langan, Bram Stoker award-winning author of The Fisherman
“Keisling writes in the shadows, his words like that first long drag on a cigarette after work. I couldn’t help coming back for more, and before I knew it, that one story, that one cigarette, turned into the whole pack.”—Stephanie M. Wytovich, Bram Stoker award-winning author ofBrothel and The Eighth.
“In Ugly Little Things, Todd Keisling ventures deep into the dark abyss of cosmic horror. What he finds there—or what’s found him—will terrify you. This varied collection is tailor-made for fans of existential dread. Prepare to face the void. Try not to scream.”—Brian Kirk, Bram Stoker Award-nominated author of We Are Monsters.
“Todd Keisling’s promise delivers with Ugly Little Things. The only time you will dare to look away from the page is when you stop to look over your shoulder. He’s earned his right to sit on the shelf alongside King, Koontz, and Ketchum.” –Eryk Pruitt, author of Dirtbags and What We Reckon.
“Todd Keisling’sUgly Little Things contains 11 tales that sing with lyricism while they move the reader with suspenseful, clever, humorous and often wonderfully elegiac developments. The author has a keen, lucid understanding of suffering, which lends each plot-line extra heft and depth. These stories contain tenderly and humanely rendered characters who are drawn towards various forms of uncanny annihilation. After reading this excellent collection, I’m eagerly awaiting whatever Keisling produces next.” –Jon Padgett, author of The Secret of Ventriloquism
“One of the few perfect story collections I’ve ever read. Todd Keisling will keep you guessing page after page. He also has a knack for surprise endings you will not see coming!” – Armand Rosamilia, author of the Dying Days series
“Keisling always gets down to the essence of good storytelling. His no-nonsense approach arrests us, showing us worlds and characters that expand our imagination, leaving it tainted with horrors only the author can deliver. These stories are a testament to one of the bravest and scariest new voices in horror fiction.” —Ben Eads, author of Cracked Sky.
“Herein lie stories told in the traditional manner of spooky tales told round the campfire. Read this collection on a dark and stormy night and don’t answer the door if someone knocks.” —Kristi DeMeester, author of Beneath.
Want to Feature?
If you’d like to feature Todd in an interview or guest article, or review Ugly Little Things, please contact Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, Publicist, at firstname.lastname@example.org
What I can say is that these four tales prove that he is perfectly capable of bringing the tension, pulling on your heartstrings and splattering the gore. Whatever is next for Mr. Keisling’s “Ugly Little Things”,