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Staring Into the Abyss

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  87 Ratings  ·  44 Reviews
As Friedrich Nietzsche said, “Battle not with monsters lest ye become a monster; and if you gaze into the abyss the abyss gazes into you.” In this collection of short stories Richard Thomas shows us in dark, layered prose the human condition in all of its beauty and dysfunction. A man sits in a high tower making tiny, mechanical birds, longing for the day when he might see ...more
Paperback, 136 pages
Published April 15th 2013 by Kraken Press
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Jeff Barr
Apr 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I remember reading the Stephen King short story collections NIGHT SHIFT and SKELETON CREW when I was a kid; wondering how every story somehow sounded the same. Whether a story about Greek Goddesses in rural Maine, or junk-trawling cyborgs in far-future space, always there was that voice. That homey, familiar-but-strange storytelling voice that bled through the spaces between the words. Without knowing what or how King accomplished it, I could feel it every single time. The stories stuck with me. ...more
Christopher tm
Mar 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I think Richard Thomas is a normal guy. He lives in, like, Chicago-ish, maybe. I think he's married and maybe has a kid and a job. Probably has a car. I don't know. But, you know, I think he's a normal guy.

Something happened to Richard Thomas. Something bad. I can only imagine. His stories aren't Dark; they're Black.

Richard is a good writer. Tells a good story and tells it well. They're finely-crafted writing and the chisel marks don't show like they so often do with clumsier writers. "Wordsmith
Mark Matthews
Apr 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I am not an anthology reader typically. I don't like investing pages and pages into a story and characters, only to have it cut short. This anthology was different. I agree with the review that stated Staring Into the Abyss makes you rethink the short story. The author is able to pull you right into the tone and the character and gives you dark slices of their life and then pull you right out. You're better for it each time. A couple of times the author winks at you. Many times a few lines make ...more
Bob Milne
Sep 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
What's so remarkable about the stories contained within Staring Into the Abyss is not that they're often so short, but that they often work so well. Word count and issues of quantity aside, the shorter a piece is, the harder it often is to imbue it with any sort of quality. Fortunately, Richard Thomas knows precisely what he is trying to convey with each piece, and he does so without so much as a wasted word. I know it's a bit of a cliché, but what he's written here is really quite poetic.

The co
May 28, 2013 rated it liked it
This is one of the books that I got due to GoodReads super-positive reviews. Unfortunately, it didn't live up to the expectations.
Don't get confused by the title, this is not a collection of Lovecraftesque horror. The stories are all pretty dark (some actually extremely dark), but not within the horror genre. More like dark fantasy and dark sci-fi and, well, dark reality. This is not bad at all, of course, however, several of them are just bland ("Underground Wonder Bound"), some are pointless (
May 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Richard Thomas is a master at creating short stories, and each story in this dark collection makes you feel like the author respects the time you put into reading his work. Richard does not waste words and each piece is carefully constructed, written with visceral imagery -- at times beautiful and at times brutal.

I've given this collection a 4 purely because Goodreads won't let me give it a 4.5/5. There were a few stories I didn't like, but this was personal taste and nothing to do with the qual
Benoit Lelièvre
Aug 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Richard Thomas has this very peculiar, transcendent writing style, but his collection STARING INTO THE ABYSS contains some of his most realistic work, so far and I found myself enjoying the personal stories of his misfits and his marginals facing the abyss. My favourite stories were: SPLINTERED, STILLNESS, FRINGE and TRANSMOGRIFY, which all explored a different side of human darkness.

SPLINTERED, while being incredibly sad, has this playful throwback to choose-your-own-adventure style and can be
Brian Steele
Mar 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horror, noir
Sometimes you walk into a book without too many expectations and you are wonderfully rewarded for it. That’s what happened with “Staring Into The Abyss” by Richard Thomas, a collection that gripped me from the first tale to the last. Tales that Thomas has journeyed down into the abyss itself for to bring back to us.

First off, these twenty tales are closer to flash fiction in length than short stories, but that doesn’t in any way negate their potency. In many ways, it makes them sharper, more int
May 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Richard Thomas is all about imagery, and there are many here that will remain seared into your cranium, such as the booby-trapped chastity belt worn by a fighter for whom death mightn’t be the worst part of losing. Or a steel-toed boot kicking someone who’s used to much smaller feet. Or a flaming pit overflowing with limbs (not the arboreal kind). Yes, this collection is heavy on visceral description and mood. Stock up on the antacid and Pepto.

A number of flash stories keep things pacey (not th
Sarah Read
May 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
If you like dark stories that chew your mind up a bit, I highly recommend this collection. Richard paints mood like a watercolor artist. It looks like splashes of chaos until you get close, and then you see the shapes emerging in the layers, and you can't unsee them, no matter how hard you try. Victimized, Splintered, Twenty-Dollar Bill, and Maker of Flight were my favorites, and they will definitely stick with me. Victimized was actually painful to read, in that visceral way where you don't rea ...more
Johnny Worthen
Apr 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Wow... just wow...

Short stories are only a step away from poetry and when done properly one cannot be easily distinguished from the other. This collection of Richard Thomas’ stories are poetry – dark poetry, vignettes and moments, rife with meaning and gravity. Each is a tale struck down to its essential bones, not a word out of place. Thomas is an artist of the macabre and a master of short form fiction. I cannot recommend this collection enough. It should be in every dark reader's library.
Erin Kelly
Apr 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
In my opinion, TWENTY REASONS TO STAY AND ONE TO LEAVE is reason enough to have this collection; what a compelling piece of fiction. Same goes for COMMITTED, another piece that I loved. Both are difficult pieces to achieve as a writer, but for very different reasons. The first is richly complex, yet deceptively simple, in its approach. The latter achieves a voice that can be difficult to pull off well.

A dark, disturbing and worthy collection.
Marcie Fraser
May 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Staring into the abyss was an electrically provocative but dark grouping of stories. Im amazed with how well Richard Thomas's woman characters realistic point of view play out. This disturbing yet beautiful collection deserves another read, and the cover art is hot.
Sean Leonard
Feb 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
Having published over 65 stories in the past five years, in addition to a novel (Transubstantiate, Otherworld Publications) and a short story collection (Herniated Roots, Snubnose Press), Richard Thomas is a workhorse who is no stranger to dark fiction. But with his newest anthology of short fiction, Staring Into the Abyss (Kraken Press), Thomas cranks the intensity up a notch while simultaneously turning the dimmer switch all the way down. To say these stories are dark is somewhat of an underst ...more
Jun 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
In a Sentence:

Your average writer is a white picket fence; Richard Thomas is a rusted strand of barbwire.

The Details:

I love live music. The energy, the roar when the headliners hit the stage, the brief moment before the audience figures out what song's next, everyone singing along to their favorites.

To me, a short story collection should function the same way a good set list does. One story flowing to the next, subtle stories filling the gap between more powerful anchors, and one hell of an enco
Feb 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Read other book reviews at Book Junkie Joint.

Staring Into the Abyss is a very well-written mix of nitty-gritty short stories, each conveying a different message and emotion. Some of them lift up the spirit, others narrate about the dark visages in the human psyche, all of them haunting and insightful.

I’ve always loved reading short stories, especially those bound in a single book or collection because they are quick to read and straight to the point. So it was such a huge treat for me to be give
Nick T. Borrelli
Mar 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
First off, let me say that I’m usually not a fan of short story collections. I would rather sink my teeth into a 300-500 page book where I can get into a story and live it for a few weeks, than the immediacy and instant gratification of reading a short story. So when I found out that Staring Into the Abyss by Richard Thomas was a short story collection, I had my misgivings to say the least. I am pleased to say that Staring into the Abyss may have changed my attitude toward the short story format ...more
Eric Wojciechowski
Jan 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Richard Thomas disturbs me and I'm okay with that. I've spent a little time engaging with him through social networking and he comes off as a really nice, professional, sane guy. Then you read his stories and you're like, “Uh-oh, there's something crawling under this well vacuumed carpet.” It's that thing that keeps me coming back to his work. So with the latest collection of short stories, STARING INTO THE ABYSS, we can see more of that thing and keep pushing our comfort zones.

If you've ever se
K.H. Vaughan
Nov 08, 2013 rated it liked it
Classic noir was always dark and gritty, filled with moral ambiguity. Hard, cynical men inhabited dark and dangerous places, and in the end often survived because they were just a little bit tougher, brasher, and smarter than the other guy – playing the angles, willing to do what the other guy would not. Even then, the good guys often lost, the wrong men went to the chair, and corruption regularly triumphed. But even most of the burnt-out cynical characters of classic noir usually had some inner ...more
Mar 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
**This review was originally published at The Dying Goose**

Richard Thomas is a literary force to be reckoned with! His writing is always on point, and ready to punch you in the face, make you feel humanity on his level. You can't get into the "indie literary scene" and not see his name pop up.

His first novel, Transubstantiate (Otherworld Publications, 2010), was a multi-layered novel with a science fiction spin on what writing a literary novel is supposed to be. Then came Herniated Roots (Snubno
Jason Fylan
Aug 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I am fortunate enough to have had a professional relationship/friendship with Richard Thomas, and I can say with conviction he is a top-notch professional and all-around good man. So what about his work? I got to know and work with Richard before I'd read any of his books or stories, but recently I cleared out an evening and sat down with "Staring into the Abyss." Amazing. The guy just gets it. He doesn't tell stories, he paints pictures by planting a visual seed in your head and allowing your i ...more
Feb 27, 2013 added it
Shelves: short-stories
A nice collection of dystopian short fiction that looks down the barrel of the gun from the wrong end. Using a jumble of present and future settings, darker elements of the human condition are examined with a mixture of wit and unflinching brutality.

There are some great stories here, ranging from subtle humour to rushes of adrenaline. "Underground Wonder Bound" had me practically euphoric with its pitch-perfect ending. "Victimized" had me on the edge of my seat, completely wrapped up in the stor
Mar 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
Like Isis, I am no stranger to dark stories. I thoroughly enjoy them, and I love to pick apart the characters. And this anthology was especially dark and somewhat depressing.

I have mixed feelings about this anthology, a few of the stories were really good, some just seemed way too short to fully grasp the reader, and some were just a little “ehhhh” – for me at least. I did enjoy the following stories:

Steel-toed Boots

In the stories I listed, I felt that you c
Feb 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
*Book provided by Kraken Press in exchange for an honest review*

This collection of short stories can only be described as dark. I guess it's a good thing I like dark. The writing is, to my mind, great. It flows, it is descriptive, and it sucks you in. What I like too is that each story was told with a slightly different style or tone, so I never felt as though I was reading the same narrator twice.

The stories themselves were interesting, dark, and at times depressing. There were some that had w
Jan 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
The characters in these stories may be staring into the abyss, but as readers we are staring into damage, characters that are irretrievably damaged. And a lot of these characters are fond of razor blades caressing their wrists, or gun barrels caressing their lips. Thomas does not flinch from showing the emotional and the physical damage that these characters have experienced or meted out: he is an equal opportunity punisher. He’s also elevated this punishment to beautiful word art. The settings, ...more
May 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
For me, a novel and a short story collection aren’t that different. Sure, the characters change every few pages but, in a good collection, the tone and mood draw a thread that ties everything together. The reference in the title to the famous Nietzsche quote sets the proper stage for the thread that runs through this collection.

The stories varied in subtlety and depth, but they all offered an aspect of the dark side of the human condition. This aspect of humanity on display contrasted with the p
Jun 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned
Richard Thomas is a master of the Neo-Noir short story. This collection continues the excellence he showed in his previous collection Herniated Roots. These stories are dark and gritty, but at the same time, I think many have a sort of twisted sense of hope about them. The characters are battered, broken, and scarred, but they do what they think is best. They continue making choices, even if they aren't always the right ones, or the easy ones. Make no mistake about it, though, the glimmer of hop ...more
Raelyn Falkin
Feb 13, 2013 rated it liked it
*Book provided by Publisher in exchange for an honest review*

I knew this anthology was full of dark stories but I wasn’t prepared for this. This novel is full of dark and twisted stories that are nothing more than the dark reality of human existence. I’m not sure how to rate or review this because it is not the type of book I read, nor do I think I’ve read something like it before.

The writing itself was very well done. It was descriptive and to the point, fluid and stylistic at points, and quite
Tom Van Boening
Jun 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-library
Staring into the Abyss by Richard Thomas is a great collection of dark, gloomy, and refreshingly realistic short stories. Each short work of prose is a punch in the face with gritty, dirty, and highly memorable stories. I just learned of Mr. Thomas a month ago, and I know this horror writer is going to chill us more in the future.

I enjoy stories of horror that is focused on grim realness. "Victimized" and "Rudy Jenkins Buries His Fears" are proof of Thomas's ability to craft swift horror storie
I won this book through goodreads firstreads. I really enjoyed the book and it was very well written. It's a book of short stories which are very dark and mysterious each story eats you in then spits you right out again you keep thinking of the story once you've read it and you just want more and more of each one that is all I can say that is wrong about the book is that I wanted more and more. I don't normally like short stories but this collection of stories and the great way they were written ...more
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Richard Thomas is the award-winning author of seven books: three novels—Disintegration and Breaker (Random House Alibi), and Transubstantiate (Otherworld Publications); three short story collections—Staring Into the Abyss (Kraken Press), Herniated Roots (Snubnose Press), and Tribulations (Cemetery Dance); as well as one novella in The Soul Standard (Dzanc Books). With over 100 stories published, h ...more
“Because every time she looked at me, she saw him, our son, that generous boy, and it was another gut punch bending her over, another parting of her flesh, and I was one of the thousand, and my gift to her now was my echo. (from "Twenty Reasons to Stay and One to Leave")” 0 likes
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