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The Uglimen

Mark Morris

PS Publishing

UK Hardcover First

ISBN 1-902880-43-9

Publication Date: 09-15-2002

144 Pages; £25 ($40.00)

Date Reviewed: 10-07-02

Reviewed by Rick Kleffel © 2002




05-09-02, 12-13-02

The Standard Issue Horror Novel tends to be big and baggy. But what happens when you take the SIHN and straightjacket the damned thing into a novella format? Mark Morris answers that question with 'The Uglimen', the latest offering from PS Publishing. The PS Publishing line is supposed to consist of novellas, but at 144 pages, 'The Uglimen' gets a little long in the tooth for a novella. Using the perennial excuse of a movie fat person, one could say that "there's more of it to enjoy". Morris relaxes and fills out the novella, packing the same reading punch in his 144 pages that might take 400 plus pages in a SIHN. You'll get a full plate of character, plot and revelation for your money. There's nothing revolutionary going on in 'The Uglimen'. But if you've ever read a SIHN and wished that somebody would have taken scissors and snipped out all the scurrilous sub-plots that lead nowhere and have little to do with the main thrust of the story, then have no fear that you'll find your wish come true with 'The Uglimen'.

Morris starts the story on the California coast in 1969. It's the Summer of Love, and English brothers Doug and Charlie are on the run. They've taken something that doesn't belong to them. 32 years later, Charlie's son is mourning the death of his father, who apparently killed himself. But at the funeral, he notices a man waiting in the distance -- his father. And then the phone calls begin, warning him to beware of "the uglimen". The cat and mouse game is on.

Morris plays all this out in SIHN prose with SIHN characters and a fairly SIHN plot. But he strips out all the non-essentials and focuses on his characters, his settings and his scenes to the exclusion of all else. There are no 'red shirts' in this novella, and the story is played out in a nicely realistic fashion. There's a feeling of fullness that accompanies reading this novella. The reader knows that they're getting a full novel's worth of writing in a much smaller package. It doesn't feel crammed with crap. The story is focused, but gives the characters room to breathe and come to life. The events of 1969 return in the middle of the novel and play out nicely against the current events. There are some nice surprises and the ending has a nice abrupt clip of terror attached.

For some readers, 'The Uglimen' will not tread enough new roads. It does lack some of Morris' more surreal touches. It doesn't set the barn or the brain on fire with new ideas. But it does deliver the solid goods of a Standard Issue Horror Novel in about 1/3 the space. That makes the book much more powerful and entertaining than it might have been had it gone out full-bloated. It's a very peculiar bit of writing in its utter normality -- like one of those miniature dioramas that's so detailed it appears much larger than it actually is. If you're up for a SIHN and don't want the bloat, try this novella on steroids.