cover image The Night Doctor and Other Tales

The Night Doctor and Other Tales

Steve Rasnic Tem. Centipede, $35 (336p) ISBN 978-1-61347-227-9

When a character in one of this collection’s 25 dark and disturbing tales reflects how “sometimes it takes all our effort to keep the anxiety of simply being human at bay,” he cuts to the core of the collection’s macabre machinations. Tem (Everything Is Fine Now) portrays characters who yearn to be part of the world around them, but their neuroses often sequester them in strange situations that are little more than externalizations of their own troubled states of mind. In “The Secret Laws of the Universe,” a psychotic man hears inanimate objects around his house urge him to act on murderous impulses toward his wife. The title story tells of an imaginary entity who acquires increasing substance in the life of a man who’s failing to cope with his health problems. “Breathing” concerns a man haunted by aural manifestations of his dead wife’s last breath, and in “Too Many Ghosts” a sculptor sees the faces of deceased friends and family in the wood he carves. Tem treads a fine line between the weird and the horrific in these stories, and they are memorable for their subtle power and insidious eeriness. This haunting collection is the perfect Halloween accompaniment. (Oct.)