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The Uglimen
Mark Morris
PS Publishing paperback £8 / $14

review by Patrick Hudson

Rob Loomis is a twenty-something wannabe musician living in London with a girlfriend, a flat and a day job in a bookshop to keep him occupied. When his father commits suicide, he begins getting strange phone calls suggesting that he's going to be next. Soon, he's glimpsing his father in the crowds, monstrous strangers are harassing his mother and old family secrets start coming to light. Before long, he's running for his life from the eponymous antagonists and facing up to his father's dark past.
   I was initially attracted to The Uglimen by the title, evocative of primitive menace, and the eerie cover seemed to justify my first impressions. The opening chapters were effectively teasing, and there were some good scary scenes on the way, but ultimately The Uglimen was a little underwhelming. After all the build up, the true nature of the uglimen and what happened to Rob's father is rather mundane, like one of those Scooby-Doo episodes where it always turns out to be the janitor.
   Morris is skilful at presenting disturbing images - the best horror fiction is based on the unseen, on how readers can fill in the blanks and use their own imagination to generate their own scares. When the final revelation comes it has to not just meet the readers' expectations but to trump them. The Uglimen fails to do this despite many intriguing elements.
   The big problem, however, is that the novella doesn't really end, and it feels like the start of a much longer piece. After all that Rob goes through, we are cheated of the chance to see him get his own back. Subsequently, he comes across as a very passive protagonist and never reacts to the events around him on his own initiative. He goes to his mother when she calls, he goes to France at the insistence of Jess, and the final plot twist occurs offstage. Morris has not made the most of the short form and doesn't seem to have enough space to play things out to their conclusion. As it stands, nothing in the novella is really resolved.
   In these days of doorstep-sized blockbusters, it's good to see a publisher taking a chance on the shorter format. There's something very pleasing about a book that can be read on a single wet Saturday afternoon. If �8 seems rather steep for 144 pages, it is printed on thick paper and the paper cover has folded-in tabs like a hardback dust cover (not quite long enough, alas, to act as book marks). PS Publishing are angling at the collectors market and this book comes in a signed and numbered limited edition paperback - if you are fan of Morris' horror novels this could be a nice addition to your collection.
The Uglimen by Mark Morris
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