Although I’d heard of Thomas Ligotti before, I never read much by him. I recently was gifted this collection from a friend (thanks again to David T. Wilbanks). I’d planned to only read a handful of the stories but got so hooked I ended up finishing all of them.

Born in 1953, Thomas Ligotti is an American weird fiction and horror writer with a distinctive, often dreamlike style. Ramsey Campbell himself sites Ligotti as one of his favorites. I enjoyed all these stories but would list “The Last Feast of Harlequin”, “Flowers of the Abyss”,”The Dreaming In Nortown”, “Library of Byzantium”, and “Miss Parr” as my favorites.


1. “The Last Feast of Harlequin” (1990) – A man travels to the remote town of Mirocaw to research a festival held in late December focused on clowns. He observes many strange customs observed by the locals and encounters a group of unhealthy-looking clowns lurking through the streets, apparently observing some separate, insidious festival of their own. This is a wonderfully creepy novelette that’s both fascinating and unsettling.


2. “Spectacles in the Drawer” (1987) – A man, who travels often collecting a variety of oddities from various places, grows weary of an acquaintance named Plomb who constantly presents himself uninvited to examine these rare finds. Plomb always statrts off fascinated with each item before swiftly losing interest, ready to move on to something new. The collector gives Plomb a set of spectacles and a ceremonial knife he says has the ability to reveal answers to mysteries if he bleeds himself while wearing them.

3. “Flowers of the Abyss” (1991) – A small town teacher is sent to talk to the resident of an old house in the forest to discover his intentions toward the town. Their discussion centers around the resident’s psychic travels, as well as the barren plot near his house he calls a garden. This is a great creepy little tale.


4. “Nethesurial” (1991) – A researcher discovers an old document about a lost island named Nethescurial that may actually be an ancient, evil god.


5. “The Dreaming In Nortown” (1991) – A college student relates the bizarre events he experienced after discovering his old roommate had become involved with an esoteric group experimenting with psychic dreaming. When the roommate’s dreams begin to seep into his own, he decides to follow him to learn more what’s going on. This is a masterful tale of surreal horror.


6. “The Mystics of Muelenberg” (1991) – A psychic named Klaus Klingman relates a time when reality as we know it became unhinged, warping everything in the town of Muelenberg. Everyone, other than himself, were made to forget the event.

7. “In The Shadow of Another World” (1991) – A man visits a strange house full of large shuttered windows with a tall turret attached to it. It turns out the place is specially designed to keep entities from a nightmarish realm which seeps into our own. These creatures can only be seen when the shutters are opened and the protective symbols are removed.

8. “The Night School” (1991) – When a student takes a shortcut home across school grounds, he learns a former teacher he’d heard had become sick has returned to the school and is teaching his disturbing theories at night.

9. “The Cocoons” (1991) – A man’s doctor shows up in his room in the middle of the night insisting he travels with him to see another patient, claiming it will help cure him. They take a cab to a dingy, remote area where he is shown a horrifying film displaying a hideous transformation.


10. “The Glamour” (1991) – Exploring an area of town he’d never been to before, a man finds an old movie theater boarded up with a sign saying it’s been condemned, but another sign pointing to a side entrance says otherwise. Inside he finds layers of cobwebs covering everything, but he’s so entranced by the place he proceeds to the screening anyway. The movie being shown there isn’t the only disturbing thing inhabiting the place.

11. “Library of Byzantium” (1988) – A pale priest secretly shows a young boy a strange book, taking it swiftly back when his parents enter the room. Unknown to him, the boy keeps one of the thin pages which came off in his hand. After the priest leaves, the boy has visions of his life afterward, including his horrifying attempt to return the book to the underground library where he’d received it.

12. “Miss Plarr” (1991) – Miss Plarr, a dark haired woman hired to manage the affairs of a household, takes special interest in the strange etchings of an alien world created by the boy who lives there. Eventually, she begins to tutor the boy on dark subjects and asks if he hears the peculiar sounds inundating the house. This somber, atmospheric tale lingered in my thoughts long after I’d finished with it.

13. “The Shadow At the Bottom of the World” (1990) – A twisted, charred form rises from the Earth to replace an old scarecrow in an autumn field. When the townspeople go to try and destroy it, they discover they cannot. Something terrible has infested their town unveiling faces in wood grain, leaves and everywhere as it haunts their dreams.

Reviewed by Matt Cowan


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