The Uncanny Valley: Tales from a Lost Town, by Gregory Miller

January 12, 2015

I read The Uncanny Valley: Tales from a Lost Town as one of my read-a-thon books during Bout of Books 12.

The Uncanny Valley is a collection of flash fiction about a small town in Pennsylvania. After a radio station prompts listeners to write in about strange occurrences in their hometowns, thirty-three residents of Uncanny Valley, PA share short tales about the weird, mystical, and downright horrifying happenings they've experienced in their little slice of the USA. You've got ghosts, vampires, psychics, murderers, accidents and plenty in between that has no name but will still creep the bejeezus out of you. Though many of the stories were unrelated beyond the setting of the town, there was a loose narrative to them, and the three or so closing vignettes in the novella revealed the fate of this bleak little town that "has a way of keeping its own where they are."

My favorite stories in the collection were "The Great Unknown," (a college-bound man chooses between two adventures), "Don't Tell!" (a young boy gets to know a very, very old woman), "Here and There," (a photographer explores a condemned house not as abandoned as he'd thought it was), "The Good Job" (two waitresses' Halloween night goes awry), and "Miss Jennings' Family" (creepy dolls, 'nuff said).

Miller manages to craft believable and disparate characters in very small spaces, with some of the stories spanning less than a single page. Most of the thirty-three protagonists we meet in The Uncanny Valley had individual voices and life outlooks. Many authors can't do this when given 300+ pages to write a novel, and it's refreshing to read someone with such a rich capacity for characterization.

I really enjoyed exploring horror last year and hope to read more in 2015, but I continue to be let down by it. Don't get me wrong—the stories in this collection are ominous and eerie, but I want my pants scared off by a book in the way that only movies have managed so far (see: The Babadook, The Blair Witch Project). Maybe I'm just really bad at visualizing scary imagery and need it fed to me via film. Maybe I expected these stories to be something they aren't meant to be, and I'm just not reading the right books for what I want. Any advice? Julianne, this is definitely a question up your alley.

Overall, The Uncanny Valley was a quick, absorbing read, and horror fans (who are more open-minded than I am, apparently) should delight in these morsels of terror. I'm, however, still on the hunt for that horror novel.

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