Book Review: Ugly Little Things: Collected Horrors by Todd Keisling

“Ugly Little Things is a soundtrack to darkness, hauntingly inviting and absolutely horrific.”


A foreword by the talented Mercedes Murdock Yardley hails Keisling as secret treasure of the genre and sets the reader up to witness the true awesomeness contained within the pages of Ugly Little Things, a collection of some truly well written horror that ventures beyond the boundaries of genre to create an experience much like listening to a great concept album. The running theme here is absolute darkness, dabbling in many tempos until the end comes to crush you. Each tale is accompanied by otherworldly artwork by Luke Spooner, conjuring a magic so strong it’s hard to put down.

‘A Man in Your Garden’ is the first title in this album of the unsettling work, told in first person to give the audience the feeling of being the poor soul looking out into the night at a stranger in their garden and the consequences thereafter.

Jonathon is a lonesome widower who is watching the news as a horrendous storm approaches in ‘Show Me Where the Waters Fill Your Grave’. The circumstances surrounding his wife’s death and their romance unfolds like a heavy doom riff that tears your chest apart.

‘Radio Free Nowhere’ tells the story of Ashley who argues with Conrad over who gets to pick the music on a road trip until she hears a song she cannot escape from. It’s a tune she can’t un-hear and one that will change the course of everything.

‘The Otherland Express’ is such a startling and emotional tale of Gregory running away from his abusive father. He accepts a ride with John Doe and learns the secret of becoming invisible. Learning about Gregory and his home life is heartbreaking and you really can’t blame him for going to such lengths to escape but to what end will John Doe help him?

Toddy makes a deal with Harvey to save his dear old great grandma in ‘Saving Granny from the Devil’, little does he know the consequences of such a pact. It begs the question what would you do for someone you love? Would you make a deal with the devil?

‘The Darkness Between Dead Stars’ takes the reader on a cosmic doom ride as you accompany a single volunteer to the blackness of space on a mission to mars. A story that displays Keisling’s talent to take his audience into territories explored by other writers yet still has a knack for surprising them and leaving them wanting more of his imagination.

‘Human Resources’ brings Lovecraft stylings into modern times with an epic opening line and all the darkness and death a reader craves. A tale that puts the corporate world under the horror microscope and doesn’t disappoint.

‘House of Nettle and Thorn’ introduces you to Jim and Nick, they’re looking forward to a party they’ve been invited to, especially since it involves beautiful girls. The shit hits the fan when it is revealed to them the true purpose of their invitation. A great horror read with a classic scary flick feel.

Karen is forced to become a person she never thought she could in ‘When Karen Met Her Mountain’, a glimpse into a woman recovering from serious depression but when her life is in danger she becomes a fighter. Violent and brutal, with a great ending.

Creepy dolls!! A trope that Keisling proves can still be told in a fresh and terrifying way in ‘The Harbinger’.

It closes with ‘The Final Reconciliation’, a novella that is an instant classic. It’s a mixture of heavy metal horror and The King in Yellow. A recounting of what took place to a group of young men on their journey to becoming a famous rock band and the consequences of meeting an alluring girl back stage, her magic is overpowering and leads them to doom on the dim shores of Carcosa. It’s a perfect fit for this collection, kinda like an epic encore at the end of a concert, it punctuates just how fantastic the whole experience has been.

Keisling is definitely shredding the horror scene to pieces with his unique brand of terror that incorporates the feel of great progressive metal. He dips his pen in the ink of many styles and blends them into his work with precision creating a seamless concoction of utter darkness, otherworldly ambience and at times harsh reality. Ugly Little Things is a soundtrack to darkness, hauntingly inviting and absolutely horrific. Keisling deftly weaves together a web of genre-bending terror in this must read collection.

                                                                                            MICHELLE GARZA

Publisher: Crystal Lake Publishing
Paperback: (287pp)
Release Date: 16 September 2017

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