The Spectral Link
by Thomas Ligotti
Cover Artist: Harry O. Morris
Review by Benjamin Wald
Subterranean Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781596066502
Date: 30 June 2014 List Price $20.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
The Spectral Link is a slim new collection of short stories by Thomas Ligotti. Collection may be a bit of a misnomer, here, since there are only two stories contained in this volume. Both stories exemplify Ligotti's more recent style as displayed in his last collection of fiction, Teatro Grotessco, and both are new efforts on the author's part to convey his bleak, nihilistic view of the cosmos.
The first story, "Metaphysica Morum" starts out strong, with Ligotti skillfully disorienting the reader with a setting that feels vaguely familiar, but altered just enough to feel somewhat off-putting, uncanny. The narrator is depressed and barely functional, only managing to keep going due to the aid of his bizarre therapist, whose office changes erratically and tends to be in dilapidated and ramshackle buildings. However, just as the story is picking up pace, it ends abruptly, with the narrator providing something of a manifesto in favor of suicide. This ending felt forced, and the narrator's manifesto was a much less subtle way of conveying Ligotti's general pessimism than that used in most of his stories, leaving this story less than fully compelling for me.
"The Small People" does not share this defect, and is more fully successful. The story is again narrated in the first person, and from the beginning of the story we are confronted by the narrator's fear and hatred for the small people, strange creatures who seem to live beside, yet wholly separate from, ordinary humans, ignored by almost everyone except our narrator. In a more traditional horror story, we might expect some confrontation with the sinister small people, but here the danger is more metaphysical than physical. The small people are an existential threat to the narrator, revealing the world for the hollow and pointless place that, in Ligotti's fiction, it inevitably is.
While the price may be a bit high for just two stories, Ligotti's fiction here is as dark, inventive, and unique as always. Fans of Ligotti will find his many virtues well on display in these stories, and Ligotti continues to find fresh ways to express his dark view of the world.