TITLE: Peel Back and See
AUTHOR: Mike Thorn
AGE RANGE: Adult
In spaces both familiar and strange, unknowable horrors lurk.
From the recesses of the Internet, where cosmic terror shows its face on an endless live feed, to a museum celebrating the sordid legacy of an occultist painter, this chilling collection of sixteen short stories will plunge you into the eerie, pessimistic imagination of Mike Thorn.
Peel Back and See urges its readers to look closer, to push past surface-level appearances and face the things that stir below.
Mike Thorn is an author whose work I’ve enjoyed tremendously in the past, so I was very eager to check out this new collection of his, and it did not disappoint! Mike has a way of paying homage to his influences while creating something incredibly fresh and new, and combining very modern struggles with elements of fear that have plagued humanity for ages.
Peel Back & See is a fascinating collection because so many of the stories share a core theme, yet it never felt repetitive in any way. There’s a commonality in the exploitative nature of capitalism and high society, as well as a reoccurring consideration of how truly ugly so many people are deep inside themselves, and I enjoyed both of these aspects so much.
Most of these stories were brand new to me, while a few were familiar from an earlier collection of Mike’s, as well as one that I didn’t realize until the end was a NoSleep Podcast piece I loved years ago. New or old, I can honestly say I enjoyed every single story, but I had a few stand-out favorites:
• The Furnace Room Mutant — This coming-of-age piece follows a lonely young boy who thinks he’s been accepted into a group of punks at his school, but quickly realizes their motives were less than friendly. I absolutely loved the twist in this story.
• Mr. Mucata’s Final Requests — Our main character is employed by a terrible and bizarre old man, and when she’s required to seek out a few very specific items in his dying days, she learns there’s more to his history than anyone realizes. This piece was incredibly fun and had a delightful ending.
• Deprimer — Have you ever wished you could pay a pretty penny to be rid of your mental illnesses forever? If you have, be careful what you wish for, because such a luxury might come with unexpected costs. This is a heavy piece that was hard to read at times, but something about it was so captivating — I couldn’t turn away.
While those three installments were my favorites, truly, Peel Back & See is a wonderful collection from start to finish that shows off not only Mike’s talent as a wordsmith, but also the wide range of fears he’s capable of conjuring off, both realistic and otherworldly. I can’t wait for his next collection of short stories, and if you haven’t taken the time for a Mike Thorn title yet, I highly encourage you to do so.
WARNINGS (no spoilers):
suicidal ideation & descriptions of suicide; violence; death/murder; child murder; child molestation; substance abuse & addiction; loss of family members; grief; domestic violence; cancer; enslavement; vomiting; depression; anxiety; an ableist slur
a few casual/brief mentions and implications of queerness
— destiny ♥