Staring Into The Abyss by Richard Thomas. Book review

abyssSTARING INTO THE ABYSS by Richard Thomas, Kraken Press, Paperback/Ebook, £9.00/£3.50

Reviewed by I O’Reilly

This anthology starts deceptively, sidling up to your subconscious with a melancholic, almost sweet  story that you may have come across before from ChiZine. ‘Maker of Flight’ immediately reminds me of Phillip K Dick, (but, dare I say perhaps a better flair for language?) and presents us a snapshot of someone trapped and fantastical, creating clockwork and cyborg birds for an unknown world. Its the kind of story that leaves you feeling a little sorry, a little sad.

And then he hits you with the harder stuff. A violent, homophobic husband who cannot see himself for the monster that he is in ‘Steel-Toed Boots’. A story about heartbroken Robert, caught in his terrible, matchbox of a life when a mysterious visitor saves him from the terrible choice that he is about to make in ‘Freedom’. These stories here are not nice or safe, they are not trying to be your friends. The next short piece ‘Committed’ takes us, whether we like it or not, into the mind of a trench-coated urban gunman as he approaches a cafe, in a harrowing echo of modern tragedies.

For some these stories might fall off the fine line between taste and the grotesque, and undoubtedly whilst reading sometimes I wonder whether I really want to know that fact or subject my mind to that image. But that is the point with this type of fiction. It purposefully makes you feel uncomfortable, tries to make you feel uneasy, makes you worried – not for the story matter – but for exactly how far the author is going to go. As such, Thomas firmly places his work in the same vein as early Stephen King and Koontz; unsettling, creepy, sometimes nauseous.

The similarities with the maestro himself cannot be drawn too clearly (a fact I think Thomas would be pleased with). In one gloriously dark piece ‘Stephen King Ate My Brain’ he reveals a macabre story of how the Dark king gets to be so prolific and so creative…

Thomas creates a picture of world(s) that are rich in details and emotion, sometimes with moments of pure poetry “I am autistic with loss.” All of his characters are dynamic creatures who are stuck in their cycles of heartbreak, loss, treachery and its aftermath. For me I think some of his best pieces are the more fantastic, mysterious pieces such as ‘Stillness’ or ‘Transmogrify’. These are dark magical tales with no easy answers or explanations, but are haunting nonetheless.

If you are looking for a creepy set of quick reads with believable characters, stories that will stay with you for long after you have put the reader down and got off the bus; then Thomas is the author for you! I would imagine that he is set to be a strong voice in the world of neo-noir or modern horror.