The Spectral Link – Thomas Ligotti
Subterranean Press – 2014
This is a very short book containing just two short stories. Like Ligotti’s other stuff, these tales are bleak, bizarre and thought provoking. The phrase “thought provoking” is generally used to describe something that encourages a multitude of ideas or thoughts, but I find that Ligotti’s work is thought provoking in the singular sense. It provokes one thought: the idea a that existence is terrible. The knowable universe isn’t just pointless; it’s actually objectively awful.
He’s serious too. Ligotti is not impressed… ever.
This post involves spoilers, so maybe read the book first if that kind of thing bothers you. Then again, Ligotti’s fiction isn’t generally the kind of stuff that will actually be spoiled by spoilers.
The first story, ‘Metaphysica Morum’, is a truly grim piece of work. Fiction doesn’t really get much darker. An unhappy man suffering from strange nightmares convinces his psychiatrist to commit suicide with him. This tale is presented in the form of the suicide note, and the drawn out, verbose narrative sometimes feels more like a homily on the virtues of self-destruction than a story. It’s not really though. There is a plot to this, and it is as nightmarish as you’d expect.
While Ligotti’s fiction is hugely miserable stuff, it can also be very funny.
“Everybody ends up badly. At best, it’s only the luck of one in a million if you don’t see it coming.”Metaphysica Morum
I don’t think that Thomas Ligotti set out to convince anyone to kill themselves, but still, if you are feeling suicidal, maybe return this book to the library unread (and please don’t kill yourself!)
The second story, ‘The Small People’, is about a world in which regular humans live separately but alongside a race of small people. These small people live in their own cities, and their cities are forever expanding. It seems that they don’t communicate with regular people. The narrator, a boy, grows to hate these small people. I’ve read other reviews of this book that claim that this is a more conventional story than the first. That might be true, but it is easily as complicated in terms of its themes and existential implications. It seems to me that this is primarily a story about identity. Who are we in relation to each other, ourselves, our families…? Bleh, look elsewhere for a deeper philosophical analysis. This tale was unsettling and genuinely weird.
The Spectral Link is only two stories, but they’re both really good ones. This is top shelf Ligotti.