Review: The Faces by Douglas Clegg

The Faces by Douglas Clegg
Alkemara Press (November 2019)
106 pages; $11.99 paperback; $3.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

Doug Clegg has long been a fixture of superior horror fiction. The Faces is a perfect representation of what the novella form can be—powerful, succinct, and deep. Fans of The Twilight Zone and the best of Bentley Little with a touch of Harlan Ellison will devour this strong tale within hours.

Harold is an ordinary man, a sad man, if truth be told. He’s stuck in a company where he never gets ahead. He’s basically a nobody. His love life? Nonexistent. His only real friend, Margaret, stands by his side but is his only tether to what matters in the world.

One day, he discovers a mask and wears it to a party. It’s from a famous (or just oddly known?) comic strip written by an enigmatic writer. The character, Joe Face, and his family of other Faces, were always written into disturbing scenes of disaster and socially awkward scenes. Think of The Family Circus by way of Clive Barker for reference. 

When Harold wears the face to the party, something changes. People like him. He’s the hit of the evening. Even Margaret begins to eye him a bit differently. Is it the mask or simply the false sense of confidence of the masquerade that alters his life? The next few days, he wears the mask to work, assuming the role of Joe Face. Life is forever changed.

Yet the shadows gather around him as people begin to follow him. Other Faces? Something darker?

What ensues is something surreal and sublime in a novella which encapsulates society’s assumptions about our identities and our roles. 

Clegg’s writing elevates this story above the norm with smart dialogue and even better characterization. Harold could be any of us, or all of us. If a reader hasn’t entered this author’s world before, this is a fine place of entry. If already familiar, this is a worthy addition to the collection.

Highly recommended.

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