Book Review: The Spectral Link by Thomas Ligotti

The_Spectral_Link_by_Thomas_LigottiWhen I heard that Thomas Ligotti was coming out with a new collection, I immediately ordered it without really thinking. That was kind of a mistake. Not because the book is bad, but because it turns out the collection only had two stories in it. Paying $20 for a hardcover that turned out to only contain two stories and was less than 100 pages made me feel a bit ripped off. That said though, both of these stories are excellent.

Both of the stories follow the same themes of existentialist horror that Ligotti is well known for, though with different approaches.

The first story is “Metaphysical Morum” and is basically a character study of a completely demoralized man. He’s out of work, he has no friends or family, and the only person he has who even pretends to care about him is his sketchy therapist Dr. O. After he begins having a reoccurring nightmare in which a man offers him an “all new context,” the narrator begins to believe he’s close to finding a solution to all his problems.

This story, despite it’s bleak tone, actually doesn’t have that many elements of a horror story. It’s fun to read some of Ligotti’s dark humor in it, considering how seriously the man takes himself in most of his other stories. Besides the Kafkaesque absurdity of Dr. O’s behavior (switching offices all the time and offering nonsense platitudes), the narrator also receives a ludicrous letter from someone claiming to be a family member.

Southern pride notwithstanding, we love those pictures about swamp-dwelling, murdering crackers, by my granddaddy’s crusty asshole we do, never seen a roll of toilet paper in his miserable life.

Ligotti’s pessimistic philosophy still shines through in this story when the narrator finally realizes what the “all new context” he was looking for is.

Those who contest demoralization as the inexorable way of universal deliverance have failed to see what is before them. They have lagged behind the evolutionary ideal of our species. That ideal is a beneficial mutation. If nothing else, the demoralized are fortuitous mutants.

“The Small People” is more conventional, but still unusual. The story revolves around a man (an unnamed narrator like the first story) who has been order neurontin over the counter afraid of a race of mysterious toy-like people called the small people his whole life.

The narrator knows very little about the nature of the small people. His attempts to research their past turns up nothing, and he learns little about them while spending time in one of their cities.

He’s unable to justify his crippling fear of the small people. They’ve never done anything to harm him, nor anyone he knows. In fact, the small people seem to keep entirely to themselves. His parents dismiss his fears as mere bigotry, though he finds common ground with a childhood friend who also hates and fears the small people.

He views the small people as a grotesque parody of “normal” people, and finds himself unable to reconcile their existence with everything he knows about the world

For them, existence was all chaos, nonsense, and emptiness. I knew the same had been written about our world, the supposedly real world. But that was opinion, speculation. And only very few had claimed as much. Yet the small people as a lot seemed to embrace these objectionable qualities as truth.

When he discovers that people who are mixtures between normal and the smalls exist, he begins to see these half-breeds everywhere and comes to hate them more than the small people. His fears eventually drive him over the edge.

In my review of Laird Barron’s The Beautiful Thing that Awaits Us All, I recommended it despite not enjoying it. Here, I’m not going to recommend this book despite how much I enjoyed it. As good as the stories are, this book still has only two stories in it. The only people who should pick it up are hardcore Ligotti fans and collectors. For everyone else, I’d recommend picking up one of his other books instead.



Ben Arzate lives in Des Moines, Iowa. His fiction and poetry has appeared in Pretty Owl Poetry, Ugly Babies, Bizarro Central, Spoilage, The Mustache Factor, Twenty Something Press, and Keep This Bag Away From Children. He blogs at

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