With Ligotti’s work, you always get the sense that his writing is a catharsis and that within a wholly functioning story the author is working out some deep personal dilemma behind the scenes. It’s always way in the background of his stories like a forgotten skeletal sub-plot. However, in The Spectral Link, it seems his mental insecurities have taken center stage in his story telling. After a short preface we are treated to two tales, short but welcomed, the first fiction from Ligotti since a longer than 10 year hiatus.
At the urging of a dark figure in his dream called The Dealer, a man works on his psychiatrist to perform a specific deed he describes as the “All New Context.” The man’s demoralization at it’s peak, he wishes to take the next step in withdrawal from life. Eventually, the psychiatrist, Doctor O, moves from his office and leaves no forwarding address for the man. Each time he moves he is found by his persistent patient. Dr. O inevitably witnesses ‘The Dealer’ himself and succumbs to his patient’s wishes, although it seems those wishes have changed.
In The Small People, the character has to deal with the intrusive spread of a race of small people that seem to have no rhyme or reason to their existence. There are themes of bigotry and prejudice explored within this story along with severe paranoia. Eventually the boy grows up and seems to see ‘the small people’ in everyone around him including his parents. He believes them to be conspiring against him for unknown reasons but in tandem with the small people. In the end he begs his psychiatrist for answers to life’s questions, to which there are none. The story makes you deal with the prejudices within yourself; uncomfortable situations and ideas are presented to your intellect to stew over.
Overall, these tales are different than Ligotti’s other horror fiction, but in line with repeating themes of his work. I think the biggest difference is the focus of the stories are turned inward upon the writer himself further demonstrating his nihilistic views. The stories make you twitch with discomfort and longing for an answer that is never found. I find shadows of Franz Kafka in these tales which can leave the reader in a state of woeful dread. Depending upon the degree the reader lets themselves fall into the stories, it makes it all the more difficult to shake off the cloud of dread and climb out of the black hole Ligotti has led you into. And that’s the horror of these stories.
The Spectral Link on Amazon