Todd Keisling ‘The Harbinger’ Review
Written by: Matt Molgaard
Felix Proust is one damn unlucky journalist. Not only does the poor chap have his ass ushered off nearly 1,000 miles for an interview with the CEO of a doll manufacturing company, he also gets stood up upon arrival. And then he notices how strange the town is. And the lack of children. And the abundance of eerie dolls that seem strangely alive. But those are only the early stages of a nightmare that will change one man’s life forever.
Todd Keisling’s final Ugly Little Things installment, The Harbinger, is arguably the darkest of the lot, and certainly the most disconcerting. To top it off, it may just be the most frightening piece of fiction he’s written, at least the most frightening piece I’ve personally read. It’s remarkably engrossing, immediately captivating the reader thanks to a relatable character in a position that’s not only believable, but highly plausible. Toss in the fact that there’s a very cinematic essence to the tale (at times it feels a bit like The Wicker Man, at times it feels a bit like Silent Hill; there’s even a hint of Village of the Damned and Dead Silence thrown in for good measure) and you’re examining a story that’s bound to appeal to a film buff just as much as an avid reader.
Todd’s been nothing but consistent with his ULT run. While some installments may lean closer to the dark side, each tale has been solid. But this one, this one takes everything to a new level. The manner in which he handles the story’s protagonist is near faultless, which is a fantastic quality. But the supporting players of this particular piece earn serious, serious attention as well, tying a mess of unorthodox personalities together as though their fate was long ago set in stone.
Keisling, at this point may have outdone himself. While I’m a massive, massive fan of A Life Transparent, The Harbinger is exponentially more terrifying. And it’s taboo (oh boy do I want to gush spoilers!) in a way that’s going to disturb a whole lot of readers. It’s not likely to turn the sensitive away in disgust, but there’s some touchy material here and it will indeed resonate. Controversial or not, the mechanics of The Harbinger are clearly refined, and the concept is about as alluring as they come.
If you’ve felt any trepidation in purchasing Todd’s previous work, it’s time to take a step out on a limb, even if you deem it shaky. This is the kind of tale that wins readers over, and potentially alters an author’s career. Good luck, Todd, despite the excellent work you’ve offered forth thus far, this short-near novella, could be the real game changer.